New Delhi: India on Tuesday called for a reset on climate debate on coal as a fuel, in the backdrop of India becoming one of the top renewable energy producers globally with ambitious capacity expansion plans.

India’s position was articulated by power and renewable energy minister Raj Kumar Singh; commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal and coal and mines minister Prahlad Joshi at the India Energy Forum by CERAWEEK.

“The debate about coal needs to be restated or restructured. One should talk about emissions not not coal production. This whole premise needs to be re examined," said Raj Kumar Singh.

This comes in the backdrop of India’s growing requirement of energy as the National Democratic Alliance government has set a goal of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2024. India’s per capita power consumption, about 1149 kilowatt-hour (kWh), is among the lowest in the world. In comparison, the world’s per capita consumption is 3600 kWh.

“It must be recognised that India has its own growth imperatives. The US today consumes twice of what India consumes even today," said Goyal.

India’s coal requirement is expected to go up to 1123 million tonnes (mt) by 2023 from the present levels of around 700 mt. The earlier plan was to mine 1.5 billion tonnes of coal by 2020. Of this, one billion tonnes was to come from state run Coal India Ltd and 500 million tonnes from non-Coal India sources in line with the government’s push to raise natural resources production and kickstart economic growth.

India plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 33-35% from its 2005 levels by 2030, as part of its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted by 195 countries in Paris in 2015.

India has reaffirmed its commitment even as the US withdrew from the Paris climate deal.

Of India’s installed capacity of 360, 456.37 MW, 54% or 195,809.50 MW is coal-fuelled. With India’s demand for electricity expected to exponentially increase, coal-powered generation will remain the mainstay in its energy mix. India is also planning to set up a bulk of its capacity on supercritical and advanced ultra-supercritical equipment, which are more efficient.

“For next 25-30 years to meet India’s energy needs, coal is needed," Joshi said and added, “Keeping environment in mind, we need to produce coal."

This comes at a time when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has been trying to attract investments in the backdrop of the Indian economy battling a severe demand slowdown and liquidity crunch that resulted in the growth rate slowing to 5% in the three months ended June.

Explaining India’s position, Singh said, “No other country has increased renewable energy capacity the way we have done it," and added “Our concern to environment is second to none."

India has been trying to rejig its energy mix in favour of green energy sources and has an installed renewable energy capacity of about 82,580MW, with about 31,150MW under execution. India is running the world’s largest renewable energy programme, with plans to achieve 175GW by 2022 and 500GW by 2030, as part of its climate commitments.

“We have laid down very stringent norms for our coal plants," Singh said.

So far, only 59 nations have signalled their intention to submit an enhanced climate action plan, and an additional nine have started an internal process to boost ambition and have this reflected in their national plans.

As per UN estimates, the world would need to increase its efforts five-fold to contain climate change to a 1.5°C rise at most. Any temperature rise beyond that would lead to major and irreversible damage. India on its part has maintained that it is doing its best to mitigate and adapt to climate change, but climate finance remains a concern.

“Providing power to all is the mandate. Having said that we are equally concerned about the environment issues as well," Joshi said.

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