Energy experts fear India is turning to commercially unviable ‘dirty coal’

BY VISHAL GULATI

New Delhi, May 8 (IANS): Amid the coal crisis where the Center invoked an emergency law to operate utilities based on importing unused coal, energy transition experts estimate that generating electricity for 1.35 billion people based on expensive imported coal for blending is not commercially viable – both high and inflationary.

They say that combined with the global pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war, which has driven up coal prices internationally, this should spell the end of coal.

Now is the time to accelerate wind and solar power to make India ready for a warming world.

Heat waves are sweeping India, with March recording the hottest in 122 years, driving strong energy demand to 207GW at the end of April, the worst crisis in more than six years. Demand far exceeds supply, leading to power cuts by state DISCOMs.

With imported coal prices at an all-time high, DISCOMs are reluctant to buy expensive electricity.

Experts told IANS on Sunday that it is counterintuitive that the government is in fact looking to auction off new mines, reopen old mines and old thermal power plants, which will not only create assets blocked, but will exacerbate climate change.

Instead, it should consider better energy planning and diversify the energy mix with emissions, global disruptions and the inflationary nature of fossil fuels in mind.

Energy ministry officials say the installed capacity of the power grid is close to 340 GW. Seventy percent of that is coal-fired. There is not enough supply, or so they say. The reality is that there is no proper planning due to which coal transportation is delayed and electricity generators cannot transmit electricity in time.

No more coal mines really needed, although Union Coal and Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi last week proposed to sell 20 abandoned mines with extractable reserves at 380 million tonnes, with the intention to extract 30 to 40 million tonnes.

The reason for opting for the dirtiest fossil fuel is that India, the world’s third largest energy consumer with electricity demand growing by 4.7% every year, will find it difficult to inject new funds into renewable energies.

But experts say that’s exactly what needs to be done with the path the coal sector faces in the face of investors’ funding challenges, logistical and planning challenges, and volatility. prices.

“Climate extremes and frequent electric shocks only indicate how climate action and energy transition needs are linked and affected not only by national events, but also by regional and international shocks,” said Martand Shardul, Indian policy director of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC).

“Coal storage through increased domestic production and imports could bring relief, however, these demands require a rapid shift to clean energy and increased investment in renewable energy to boost social good, planetary health and economic resilience.”

Warning, International Institute for Sustainable Development policy adviser Balasubramanian Viswanathan said: “Amid the power shortage crisis, we must take all available short-term measures to keep the fans on. But some interventions have medium- and long-term effects. long-term implications, and here we have to be very careful.

“We absolutely must not make new investments in our coal-dependent electricity system, which will only contribute to aggravating crises in the future. From a purely financial point of view, there is also a great risk of The government should instead stimulate investment to increase renewable energy and encourage more grid balancing technology, including battery storage.”

Believing that India needs to invest aggressively in renewable energy – from 10-12 GW per year to 35-36 GW per year, WRI India’s Energy Program Manager, Bharath Jairaj, said: “If we are to achieve 2030 target of 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity, we need to aggressively support investments in energy storage and reintroduce favorable regulatory conditions for rooftop and behind-the-meter investments in renewables. “

It’s not a shortage of coal, says Aarti Khosla, director of New Delhi-based Climate Trends.

“Nor is it about a shortage of energy capacity. Combined with the global pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war, which has driven up coal prices internationally, this should spell the end of the coal, but ironically it’s our only option to bring in more electricity. Now is the time to ramp up wind and solar power so we’re ready for a warming world,” Khosla said. at IANS.

Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), said it was time to ditch the dirty and embark on an accelerated energy transition for true energy security.

“Generation based on expensive imported coal or gas or buying expensive electricity at trade is not commercially viable. DISCOMs should buy cheaper renewable energy and supplement it with flexible generation sources,” added Vibhuti Garg, an energy economist (Lead India) at the Institute for Energy. Economic and financial analysis (IEEFA).

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