Health warnings against the consequences of air pollution are the latest setback facing the Indian government’s “increasingly fanciful” ambition to triple the nation’s electrical generation from coal-fired power plants by 2020, RenewEconomy reports from Australia.
Earlier this month, the U.S.-based Health Effects Institute reported that the use of coal for power generation in China left more than a third of a million people prematurely dead in that country in 2013. But “India’s situation is getting worse at a much faster speed than China, because India has not taken as much action on air pollution,” President Dan Greenbaum warned.
- Concise headlines. Original content. Timely news and views from a select group of opinion leaders. Special extras.
- Everything you need, nothing you don’t.
- The Weekender: The climate news you need.
But for India’s coal miners and electrical system operators, health concerns may fade into relative insignificance beside economic woes, RenewEconomy reports.
“Currently, about one-third of India’s 211 gigawatts of installed thermal power capacity—predominantly coal plants but including some gas units as well—is lying idle,” write correspondents Bob Burton and Ashish Fernandes. “Some plants have been shut because of a lack of cooling water. Others because of technical problems or because they are uneconomic. Some plants have coal supply agreements but not power purchase agreements, while other plants have the opposite problem. Other plants have neither.”
Against that glut of potential supply, India’s energy ministry in June cancelled construction plans for 16 GW of new coal capacity.
Meanwhile Coal India, the government-owned company that produces four-fifths of the country’s coal, is unable to find buyers, Coal Secretary Anil Swarup conceded. “Coal India is today running after the client to take coal,” he conceded. “Coal India doesn’t know what to do with the coal.”
Likewise, India’s largest coal power producer, NTPC, is reported to be shifting away from that fuel in favour of renewables, with a target of installing 10 GW of renewable capacity by the end of the decade, enough to make it the country’s largest renewable energy producer.
“If the prospects for existing coal-fired generators look grim,” RenewEconomy adds, “they are even worse for those planning to build as much as a further 243 GW of coal plants. Behind the scenes, Indian government officials have begun issuing warnings against developers proceeding with new plants in the next three years.”