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India plans to double coal production, ignoring climate pledges

India plans to double coal production, ignoring climate pledges 
Bloomberg, 9 January 2024

The south Asian giant is setting new targets to use more coal, despite committing to transitioning away from fossil fuels.

As climate diplomats at COP28 in Dubai debated an agreement to transition away from fossil fuels last December, India was facing another energy conundrum: It needed to build more power capacity, fast.

“To meet growing demand,” the Indian government said on Dec. 11 it expects to roughly double coal production, reaching 1.5 billion tons by 2030. Later, the power minister Raj Kumar Singh set out plans on Dec. 22 to add 88 gigawatts of thermal power plants by 2032. The vast majority of which will burn coal.

The move to invest more in the world’s dirtiest fuel – one of the biggest contributors to global warming – may seem counterintuitive for the South Asian country, which is highly vulnerable to climate impacts. Yet, as the country heads into elections during April and May, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to avoid any risks of power shortages. Along with record heat waves India has seen big spikes in peak demand for electricity over two successive years.

“India’s policy is to build everything. Push for renewables, but also push for coal and other fossil fuels,” said Sandeep Pai, director of the climate-focused organization Swaniti Global. “The justification is an increase in power demand.”

When it comes to renewable energy, however, India is failing to build enough to meet its ambitious goal of 500 gigawatts of clean-energy capacity by 2030. The rates at which solar and wind power was installed over the past few years is about a third of what’s needed, according to BloombergNEF.

There is a combination of factors affecting the renewables roll out. The top reasons, says Rohit Gadre of BNEF, are the misaligned incentives of state-owned electricity retailers, difficulty of acquiring the land necessary and lack of consistent policies at federal and state levels. As a result, even as the demand for power is rising, there’s not enough appetite among private investors to speed up renewable investments.

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