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India to expand coal fleet despite clean energy commitments

With plans to expand its existing coal fleet, the non-governmental organisation has voiced that the South Asian country is ‘‘wasting’ Rs 3,000,000 crore by investing in an additional 62GW coal power.

The environmental organisation said in a recently released report, that these plants will remain idle due to huge overcapacity in the coal power sector, which they explained “is already causing a humongous waste of capital which could be better used in many other economic sectors.

“Project lenders and banks are still feeling the impact of reckless lending to the coal power sector in the 2008­/2012 period, with many projects either abandoned, delayed or struggling for viability.

The non-governmental organisation added: “The lessons of the past must be heeded if we are to avoid an even more disastrous repeat.”

Coal fleet vs. Clean energy

According to the report, India has received praise in the international community for its pledges on carbon intensity reduction and ambitious renewable energy goals: “Failure to meet these goals will imply a serious loss of face.”

The organisation explained: “Renewables have significant potential external, environmental benefits over coal, in terms of reduced air and water pollution and consumption, deforestation, displacement of communities etc.

“With a 10 or 20 year time horizon, it is becoming clear that coal is no longer the least-cost option in terms of providing electricity to the consumer, with solar PV and wind now already cheaper (in several cases) than coal, and with costs for renewables continuing to fall as costs for coal continue to rise.”

Money Control reported: “The threat of excess coal power comes even as the sector has already seen plant load factors (PLF) drop to 62% in 2015-16, and as low as 54% in July, 2016, leading to under-recoveries and financial distress, it said. The green body said that at least 31GW of coal power plants are currently idle and stranded due to a lack of coal supply or purchasing agreements with state discoms.”

“It is clear that there is no need for any additional coal power till 2022 at least, and probably beyond that too, even if we work with the governments own estimates of 6.7% per annum growth in electricity demand (based on a projected GDP growth of 8.3%),” Greenpeace India said in a statement.

“And yet, to continue building, at enormous expense, an additional 65GW of coal plants that will not be utilised, is shocking evidence of poor planning in the infrastructure sector. In effect, 94% of the coal power capacity that is currently being built will be lying idle,” said Jai Krishna, research consultant for Greenpeace India.

Water conservation

Earlier this year, Greenpeace International released the first global plant-by-plant study of the coal industry’s current and future water demand.

According to the report titled, ‘The Great Water Grab: How the Coal Industry is Deepening the Global Water Crisis‘, which was launched during International Water Week, the world’s rapidly depleting  freshwater resources could be further diminished if the development of new coal-fired power plants worldwide go ahead.

According to the research findings, there are already 8,359 existing coal power plant units globally, which consume enough water to meet the basic water needs of 1 billion people.

The top countries with proposed additional coal plant capacity in red-list areas are China (237GW), India (52GW) and Turkey (7GW). Almost half of the proposed Chinese coal fleet is in red-list areas. In India and Turkey this figure is 13%.

According to the International Energy Agency, coal could account for 50% of the growth in global water consumption for power generation over the next 20 years.

Greenpeace research shows that if the proposed coal plants come online, their consumption of water will increase by 90%.

Ashley Theron
Ashley Theron-Ord is based in Cape Town, South Africa at Clarion Events-Africa. She is the Senior Content Producer across media brands including ESI Africa, Smart Energy International, Power Engineering International and Mining Review Africa.