India optimistic of being coal-free by 2050
India will not need to build another coal power plant after 2025 if renewables continue to fall in cost at their current rate, according to a report that suggests that carbon levels could be cut significantly beyond parameters agreed at the Paris climate talks.
A report published on Monday by The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) in New Delhi suggests that as long as renewables and batteries continue getting cheaper, they will undercut coal in less than a decade.
If that happens, it will reduce the country’s carbon dioxide emissions by about 600m tonnes, or 10 per cent, after 2030, the report said.
India is the world’s fastest growing major polluter, and its ability to curb carbon emissions will be vital in capping the rise in global temperatures. The report suggests that if the Indian ministers get their policies right, they will be able to go much further than they have already promised, and even eliminate coal-fuelled power entirely by the middle of the century.
Ajay Mathur, director-general of Teri, said: “This is perfectly achievable if government gets its policies right. India’s power sector could be coal-free by 2050.”
India is currently the world’s third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide behind China and the US, contributing about 4 per cent of the world’s total.
But its emissions are growing rapidly as its economy expands by more than 7 per cent a year. In 2014, the country became the biggest contributor to global emissions growth after emitting 8.1 per cent more than the previous year. In 2015, it increased by another 5.2 per cent.
Much of the growth is being driven by the country’s increased use of electricity, with Narendra Modi, the prime minister, having made providing reliable power to everyone in the country a priority.
About 60 per cent of India’s electricity is currently fuelled by coal, and despite ambitious targets to build more renewables, many more coal-fired power stations are also expected to be built. The country is planning to build an extra 65 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity in the next few years, equivalent to 20 large nuclear power plants.
There are already disputes about how much of the extra capacity is needed. India currently has 308GW of capacity, even though the highest amount ever used at once was 156GW.
Renewables and batteries are on track to undercut coal in less than a decade, according to The Energy and Resources Institute © AFP
According to Teri’s research, coal-fired power plants under construction will be built, but no more will be needed after 2025, provided two things happen.
First, the cost of both renewables and battery storage need to keep falling at their current trajectories. If they come down to half their current price by 2025, according to Mr Mathur, they will undercut coal, something he said he was confident would happen.
Second, the government needs to put in place policies to make it viable to run a system mainly off renewables. For example, ministers will have to allow companies running the electricity grid to buy power in an instant.
Mr Mathur said: “If a cloud comes over a large solar farm, the grid should be able in an instant to buy power from a stored source — most likely batteries.”
Ministers will on Monday signal their implicit backing for the conclusion by attending the report’s launch.
If companies cease building new coal power plants after 2025, the last one is likely to close somewhere around 2050, leaving one of the world’s biggest electricity users running its electricity grid almost solely with renewables.
Press link for more: Financial Times