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India’s Road To Clean Energy Is Far, As It Continues To Depend On Coal

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In India’s western state of Gujarat, farmers are being encouraged to use solar energy for irrigation purposes as the South Asian country has set a target to achieve ‘net zero’ emissions by 2070. 

In a bid to promote clean energy, India had announced its biggest auction of coal mines in November 2022. It invited bids for 141 mines built across 12 states in India. The extra mines, according to the government, will help it reach its goal of generating 1 billion tonnes of coal by April 2024.

However, households using clean energy are majorly isolated in the country that has become the world’s third-largest polluter, emitting planet-warming gases. 

India’s hurdles in the path to achieve clean energy

India still has a long road ahead before becoming a fully clean-energy based country, as only four states have met their renewable energy targets, including Gujarat, in 2022. According to the current situation, the majority of the states have installed less than 50% of their targets while some, like West Bengal, have put in place only 10% of their target.  

According to the analysts, India faces a number of hurdles in its path to take up clean energy projects. These hurdles are mainly in the form of resistance from local communities and long enduring contracts with coal plants. 

Till December 2022, government owned electricity distribution companies were indebted to power generators to pay $3.32 billion. According to the analysts, they are financially crippled which have made them unable to invest in clean energy projects.

In India, fossil fuels generate more than 70% of its electricity and this has been going on for decades. Coal has the largest share in bad fuels. On the other hand, renewable energy serves only 10% of India’s electricity needs.

Gujarat witnessed a 30% fall from 85% to 56% in coal’s contribution to electricity production in the past six years. The trend was analyzed by Ember, an energy think tank based in London. In turn, renewable energy grew in use from 9% to 28% at the same time.

Energy analyst at the Paris-based International Energy Agency, Thomas Spencer said, “The challenge of reducing the share of coal in the electricity generation mix is particularly acute because you are dealing with a sector that is growing rapidly.”

Spencer further said that demand in India is on the rise due to its rapidly growing economy and growing electricity consumption per capita.

“Historically, countries that have achieved substantial and rapid transitions away from coal-fired power tend to have had either slowly growing or stagnant or even slightly declining electricity demand,” he added.

World’s top seven potential renewable energy nations include India, as per the research by the Global Energy Monitor. By 2025, India aims to deploy 76 gigawatts of solar and wind energy which would, as predicted, finish the usage of 78 million tonnes of coal yearly and save up to 1.6 trillion rupees ($19.5 billion).

India’s target for 2022 was to consume 175 gigawatts of renewable energy for its total power production, but failed to do so. Now, according to experts, India would need to produce clean energy at a faster rate so that it achieves its 2030 target of installing a total of 450 gigawatts. 

The analysts have also suggested constructing more energy storage, having more progressive policies and ensuring their strict implementation are essential factors to fasten the process of reaching renewable energy.

In the past two decades, India installed 168 gigawatts of coal-fired generation, which is almost double of what it added in solar and wind power combined, according to an analysis of Ember data. The federal power ministry of India predicts that during the next ten years, annual increases in electricity demand could reach 6%.

However, on the contrary, the government in India maintains coal necessary for its energy security. For the fact, the government-owned Coal India limited is the world’s biggest state-owned coal producer with the production of 82% of the total coal produced in the country. 

“New laws such as the energy conservation bill as well as updated mandates issued by the federal government that make it necessary for electricity companies to purchase renewables provide hope,” said Madhura Joshi, an energy analyst at the climate think tank E3G. “At the end of the day what is needed is speeding up the installation of renewables and associated infrastructure.”

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