Environmental Sciences

End overdependence on coal

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India must diversify its energy programmes towards ‘cleaner’ and ‘greener’ alternatives to become independent of fluctuations in the global hydrocarbon market.


Abhiroop Chowdhury, Associate Professor, Jindal School of Environment & Sustainability, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.

Armin Rosencranz, Professor and Dean, Jindal School of Environment & Sustainability, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.

Aliya Naz, Independent Researcher.


Climate change and global warming are destabilizing the planet. In 2018, energyrelated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions rose by 1.7 per cent. This amounts to 33.1 gigatons of CO2. India pledged last week at COP 26 in Glasgow to reduce GHG emissions from its energy sector and achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. India produced 106.3 billion units of power in December 2020, of which 75 per cent came from coal-fired thermal power plants.

Just before the COP 26 summit, in mid-September, 2021, India faced a record shortage of coal supplies that threatened to undermine its fossil fuel-dependent energy infrastructure. The crisis should have propelled the nation’s leaders to devise alternative policies to limit its dependence on coal and look  towards renewable alternatives.

Coal-dependent thermal power units account for about 70 per cent of India’s power production. On 1 October 2021, it was announced that 135 thermal power units across India had less than four days’ worth of coal in their reserve. The reason for this coal supply shortage can be traced to new geopolitical developments in the region: the AUKUS naval deal coupled with incessant monsoon rains have reduced coal supplies from mines.

Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd. declared on 9 October, 2021. that most of its thermal power units were operating at reduced capacity. The Delhi power minister’s dialogue with power distribution firms revealed that some of the power plants had less than one day’s worth of coal in their reserve. The Delhi government sought the Union government’s assistance to manage this impending power crisis. Several power distributors such as Tata Power urged consumers to use energy judiciously.

Published in: The Statesman

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