India cannot cut coal use unless batteries become cheaper: Piyush Goyal
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New Delhi: The government is scouting for technologies to make coal-based power generation less polluting as the country needs to use the abundantly available fuel to provide affordable electricity, power minister Piyush Goyal said.
Coal will continue to be an important part of the country’s energy mix, Goyal said at the India Summit organized by the The Economist magazine in New Delhi on Wednesday. He urged the industry to come up with affordable power storage technology which could make renewable energy more reliable.
“I am in dialogue with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for clean carbon technology,” Goyal said, adding that he would invite experts from all over the world to come and demonstrate innovations in the energy sector. He, however, said that while working towards the committed emission reduction goals, the country cannot afford to ignore the demand for affordable power, which is set to go up significantly.
India’s energy consumption, which could be compared to that of China’s in the 1970s, is set to go up because of the ‘Make in India’ drive, the minister said.
“If I want people in the low income group to have better standard of living, we need to provide affordable power,” Goyal said, adding the country has several decades of backlog in development, especially in village lighting. The government is not able to drastically cut use of coal in the absence of affordable storage systems for renewable energy.
India has committed to reduce carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 33-35% by 2030 under a plan submitted to the United Nations. At the same time, the massive drive for village electrification and improvement in living standard is expected to raise energy consumption.
Goyal said that state governments are reorienting themselves to make sure that their power distributors become more efficient and do not slip into losses from 2019-20 as states will have to take over distribution companies’ losses into the state budget. This is part of the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana meant to help turn around money-losing utilities. The programme was approved by the Union cabinet on 5 November.
“Public sector banks are becoming more demanding to make sure that distribution companies perform better,” said Goyal.
If states adhere to the performance milestones in the tripartite deal with the Centre and power utilities, the scheme could be a success, said Sambitosh Mohapatra, partner, energy, PwC India. “An overall improvement in ease of doing business and a pick-up in economic growth rate can add to states’ revenue receipts and their ability to service the taken over debt,” said Mohapatra.