As the rest of the world moves away from coal, leaving the notoriously dirty fossil fuel in the ground, the twin industrial giants of Asia - China and India - have clung to coal as a key part of their energy mix, and even seen a rise in consumption. But things are now changing rapidly in the Asian energy landscape. Beijing has just announced in its most recent five-year plan that China will be aiming for complete carbon neutrality by 2060 - a lofty but not impossible goal - and India now has the “fastest-growing renewable energy capacity addition in the world.” India, in particular, is working to wean itself off coal and replace that capacity with renewable energy as part of its ambitious energy plans. Just this week, Indian power minister Raj Kumar Singh stated that in just a decade, by 2030, non-fossil fuel resources will account for up to 60 percent of domestic energy generation capacity. This announcement comes as “India aims to sharply lower its dependence on coal in its electricity generation mix, as part of a broader plan to raise power output from cleaner sources and cut emissions,” according to reporting from London-based economy and energy media group Argus.
This newest proclamation from the energy minister has fast-tracked the country’s energy transition as compared to its previous commitments. Five years ago, Indian leaders pledged to convert 40 percent of the nation’s installed energy capacity to “cleaner energy sources” by 2030. India is on track to meet that goal a full decade early, as soon as this year. Meeting that mark “would give policymakers more bandwidth to keep a lid on the growth of the coal-fired fleet in the country,” wrote Argus on Wednesday.
And there’s even more good news for India’s sizeable greenhouse gas emissions: “The growth in India's renewable energy capacity is expected to outpace the expansion of its coal-power stations in the coming decade, in line with plans to cut its dependence on the thermal fuel,” reports Argus. Delhi intends to replace this coal-fired energy capacity primarily with solar energy, in addition to other renewable energy resources.
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As part of the subcontinent’s ambitious push toward greater decarbonization of its industry and economy, India is also working to shorten supply chains and develop local manufacturing capacity for solar panels and other equipment instrumental to growing the renewable energy sector. The government is attempting to boost the growth of this domestic economic sector by offering incentives for local renewable infrastructure manufacturing and giving benefits to “companies setting up hubs for local manufacturing of advanced technology,” reports Argus. “At the same time, imports of renewable energy equipment would be discouraged through tax and other administrative measures.”
India’s move away from coal and toward cleaner energy alternatives comes at the same time that the nation is working on developing its own energy autonomy. Their efforts, however, are still falling far short of the mark as the nation’s energy demands grow at a breakneck pace that India’s additional renewable energy capacity can’t hope to keep up with in the short term.
Just this week PV Tech reported that “India still not anywhere near energy sufficiency,” remarking that “India’s achievements in accelerating renewable capacity addition have been remarkable but still not enough to satisfy most of its population’s electricity needs.” While India has been working to beef up incentives and benefits to encourage the growth of the domestic renewable energy sector, PV Tech argues that these measures do not go far enough: “Liberal policies and easy governmental compliances to attract investments in the renewable energy sector is the need of the hour.”
As India modernizes and more and more of the nation’s 1.3 billion residents start to connect to the grid and add to local power demand, it is essential - not just for India, but for all of us - that India is able to respond to this demand with clean energy if the world has any hope of meeting the emissions goals set in the Paris Agreement. Demand growth is inevitable in India, but the corresponding carbon footprint doesn’t have to be.
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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