India's mixed signals on coal future: New projects slow, but old plants remain
India’s approach to coal has been marked by mixed signals, according to the Global Energy Monitor’s ninth annual survey.
While the start-up of new coal power projects in the country has been at its lowest level in years, plans for new projects are still being made and there is no clear plan to shut down old plants with low output and efficiency.
India has spent just 3.5 GW on new coal power capacity in 2022, the lowest annual growth since 2014. India’s pre-construction coal power capacity will decline by almost 88% to 28.5 GW of 2015 to 2022.
The states with the highest capacities of coal power under development in India are Tamil Nadu, Odisha, and Uttar Pradesh.
India’s mixed signals on future use of Coal
Worldwide, coal power generation capacity is expected to reach 26 GW by 2022, with a projected increase to 25 GW by 2030. India’s planned capacity increased by 2.6 GW, but is still far behind China, which plans to reduce coal planning for the rest of the world.
The global coal fleet has shrunk, albeit at a slower rate than in previous years, and around 350 GW of new capacity is still proposed in 33 countries, with an additional 192 GW capacity under construction.
To meet the Paris Agreement targets, all existing coal plants in rich countries must close by 2030 and in the rest of the world by 2040, with no room for new coal plants.
The world needs to retire an average of 117 GW of coal power capacity per year to achieve this target, four and a half times more than the previous year.
OECD countries would use an average of 60 GW each year by 2030 to meet the coal phase-out deadline, and non-OECD countries 91 GW each year by 2040. So far, India has only decommissioned 15 .7GW.
Experts warn of India’s coal future
Flora Champenois, lead author of the report and project manager of Global Energy Monitor‘s Global Coal Plant Tracker, cautions that new coal projects are coming online too slowly to avoid climate catastrophe.
She said ‘India should phase out old and polluting units and retrofit sites to support renewable energy, especially as it has enough coal capacity to meet peak demand with better planning and management’.
According to Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Center for Research on Clean Air and Energy, India needs a clear policy on new coal and maximum annual coal targets for all consumption sectors.
Sunil said that mismanagement of coal reserves and withdrawals at power plants cause power outages, especially in times of high demand, but the situation will worsen with the construction of new coal plants or coal mines.
‘This will result in the loss of stranded assets in the coal mining and energy sector, the loss of virgin forests and wildlife, and damage to public health and social welfare’ he added.
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