Coal will continue to be the mainstay of India’s power generation in this decade, but the country must ensure it uses coal more efficiently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: CSE
CSE suggests measures that can help reduce CO2 emissions from the coal-based power sector by 22 per cent
Renewable capacity addition alone not enough; ambitious plans to reduce GHG emissions in coal sector needed to meaningfully tackle climate change, says CSE’s new analysis
New Delhi, December 14, 2020: India’s coal-based thermal power sector is one of the country’s biggest emitters of CO2 (carbon dioxide). It spews out 1.1 gigatonne (Gt, or 1,100 million tonnes) of CO2 every year – this is 2.5 per cent of global GHG emissions, one-third of India’s GHG emissions, and around 50 per cent of India’s fuel-related CO2 emissions.
“Coal use by the world, which depends on it for powering its energy needs, is a major contributor to climate change. Coal use in power plants adds to toxic air pollution. There is no question, therefore, that the use of coal for energy needs to be stopped immediately in the industrialised world,” said Nivit K Yadav, programme director, industrial pollution unit, CSE at a webinar here today on ‘Reducing CO2 footprints of India’s coal-based power sector’. The webinar, organised by CSE, brought together some key experts from the field (see the webinar link above) to discuss the issue.
“Obviously, the coal-based power sector is bad news for an India that is claiming to lead the world in emissions reduction,” adds Nivit K Yadav. “But the fact is that we cannot do away with coal so quickly. India’s growing energy needs means coal is here to stay for at least this decade. Even in 2030, coal will contribute around 50 per cent of the electricity generation mix. How, then, can the country move ahead on a path where it can use coal efficiently to reduce its share of GHG emissions? Our new analysis -- Reducing CO2 footprints of India’s coal-based power sector – which we have officially released at the webinar today, puts forth a few feasible measures.”
The CSE analysis points out that India’s targets in its INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions) mostly focus on an ambitious deployment of renewable power. Yadav says: “This is not enough. We believe the coal-based power sector needs to take major initiatives if India wants to reduce its GHG emission. Similar ambitious plans are needed in this sector as well.”
What the CSE analysis asks for
In its analysis, CSE has put forth a bouquet of suggestions. Says Nivit K Yadav: “We need policies for decarbonizing coal power. If these get implemented, CO2 emissions from the coal power sector can be reduced by up to 22 per cent in comparison to a business-as-usual scenario.” These suggested actions are as follows:
The CSE analysis also recommends that India should use both carbon tax and carbon trading system effectively to push for decarbonisation in the coal sector. Says Trivedi: “As per global experience, an efficient trading mechanism takes years to mature and yield results on the field – but India seems to have no plans for carbon trading as of now.”
Speaking about CSE’s standpoint on coal, director general Sunita Narain clarifies: “We need an energy transformation through which we would realize the co-benefits of local and global emission reduction. We also need the right to energy for all, as energy poverty and inequity is not acceptable. At the same time, we recognise the fact that coal is still very much a part of India’s power needs.”
Narain goes on to list the following imperatives to ensure the coal India uses is clean and less climate-unfriendly:
“We have policies in place, but realising the benefits of those policies requires significant efforts from all the stakeholders. We need to focus on incentivising decarbonisation steps in the coal power sector. This sector is crucial for the country’s energy security; it has the potential to develop a benchmark that can set the standards for other industries,” asserts Nivit K Yadav.