Coal-Based Power - Outlook and Challenges for India and Other Emerging Economies

India, like other emerging economies, looks set to remain dependent on coal in the short to medium term for its economic growth. However, as countries begin to confront coal’s environmental impacts, policymakers and industry alike must now address important questions of sustainability and environmental responsibility in its management and use.

The environmental impacts of coal cannot be understated. Significantly, the sector contributes over 50% of India’s total CO2 emissions from fuel combustion.  Freshwater withdrawal (estimated at 24 billion cubic metres, nearly half of India’s domestic need) comprises 70% of total industrial withdrawal. Finally, power plants contribute a significant proportion of air polluting emissions from industry (60% for particulate matter, 45% of sulphur dioxide, 30% of nitrogen oxides and 80% of mercury).  

The Future of Coal-Based Power in India 

The coal-based thermal power sector is now set for a major transition in India. In December 2015, the Indian government enacted new environmental norms for thermal power plants curbing water consumption and establishing emissions standards for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. These norms will significantly reduce the overall environmental impact of this sector.  Further, the INDC goals announced by India will heavily rely on improving India’s coal-based power fleet through the implementation of new high-efficiency technology and the shuttering of old plants.

The purpose of this conference is to understand what specific challenges the sector now faces in complying with this new policy and regulatory framework; the role of coal in the energy-mix (short and long-term); challenges in transitioning towards new technologies; and identifying potential solutions, a roadmap and ways forward to support the implementation of these new environmental norms. 

Shared Learnings from Other Emerging Economies
While most countries are facing international pressure to curb their carbon emissions, coal still features prominently in the existing energy mix of many emerging economies to support their economic growth. 

Representatives from different countries, including Indonesia, China and South Africa will participate in this conference to share their perspectives about the role and future of coal in the national energy mix; understand common challenges in improving the thermal power sector (both in terms of environmental performance and energy efficiency); and identify what best practices and learnings can be applied or replicated here in India.

Key Themes

The conference will address the following key issues in improving the environmental performance of this sector:

  • The role of coal in the national energy plan

  • Feasibility of transitioning towards new technologies 

  • Balancing the water energy nexus

  • Developing better frameworks for managing fly ash and promoting its re-use  

  • Challenges in implementing Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems

  • Developing a meaningful roadmap for implementing the new emissions and water consumption standards

Conference Details

Date: March 17-18, 2016
Venue: Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

For further information or to register your attendance, please contact

Ms Shruti Issar, Senior Research Associate
Phone: (+91) 11 40616000