India must continue to take a holistic approach towards climate change. In addition to investing in solar and wind projects, it should also look at investing in clean coal plants, developing alternative energy sources, and managing its upcoming urban transition in order to curtail carbon emissions while achieving its economic goals.
Despite the recent advent of renewable energy, India is still powered by coal, with 77% of electricity generation coming from coal plants. The future outlook of the country similarly shows that coal will continue to dominate the Indian power sector, with best case scenarios showing that coal will be responsible for 60% of electricity generated in 2040. By themselves, these numbers are not necessarily problematic, but when put into the context of the conditions plaguing the coal sector, issues start to arise.
Domestic Indian coal happens to be of a poorer quality than comparable international varieties. Additionally, coal plants in India are extremely inefficient—India is currently ranked third worst in the world in coal-plant efficiency. These circumstances lead to larger volumes of coal being burned to produce necessary energy benchmarks, which consequently lead to excessive carbon emissions. Coal will be absolutely necessary for India’s continued economic growth, but by making the coal cleaner and investing in plants with better technology, India can help curb some of the coal-related carbon emissions.
Natural gas and nuclear energy make up the remaining 8%, but have not yet been able to gain a significant foothold in India’s power sector. For the natural gas industry, the main issue is lack of domestic infrastructure.
The nuclear energy sector also has some barriers for entry in India. Combined with the disincentives provided by Indian liability laws and the difficulties in conducting business faced by foreign firms, India has to rely on domestic capabilities for its nuclear energy needs.”
When we talk about climate change, the focus tends to be only on the power sector were as the transportation sector accounts for 10% of domestic greenhouse gases, and waste management processes are linked to 3.5% of Indian carbon emissions. It is here that India has another prime opportunity to reduce carbon emissions.
If India wishes to truly conduct a low carbon economic transition, it needs to move towards clean coal technology, develop alternative fuel sources and manage its urban transition, while continuing to invest in renewable energy.