Spotlight Activity: Coal Production Is Expanding in India
As expected, the current government of India has been massively expanding the production of coal that provides more than half of India’s primary commercial energy. A recent report says that the government has raised India’s coal production by over 144 million tonnes (mt) in five years. This is a 5% increase from the 138 mt added to the country’s output in the decadal period between 2004 and 2014 that preceded it. Coal India Limited (CIL), the government owned mine that accounts for nearly 90% of domestic supplies has increased its production from 462 mt in 2014, when the current government took charge, to 607 mt in the production year 2018-19. The CIL had announced a production target of 652 mt in 2018-19.
Nevertheless, the expansion is on. The government has set a target of one billion tonnes of coal production by 2019-20 for CIL, but it may relax the timeline.
According to a report, the coal imports of India increased by 5.1% to 189.9 million tonnes mt in the April-January period of the ongoing fiscal year. It was 180.61 mt in the April-January period of the previous fiscal year. Improvement in domestic supply seems to have impacted this, according to sector experts. India has been constantly trying to improve domestic supply of coal to fight the short supply that many coal fired power plants used to face in recent past. The non-coking coal (mostly used for power plants) import is much higher than coking coal segment. Of the total imports during January 2019, non-coking coal shipments were 12.35 mt and coking coal at 3.53 mt.
In a Three-Year Action Agenda, prepared in 2017 by the country’s premier planning agency NITI Ayog, the agency laid out a nine-point plan for boosting coal production in India in order to feed increasing demand from India’s coal power sector. The expansion was justified in the face of the need for power in an expanding economy in which still 304 million people are without access to electricity.
Coal will remain the dominant energy source for the country for years to come. The renewable power push seems to be complementary at the moment. India’s submission to the Paris climate agreement does not set a timeline for the scaling down of its use of the highly-polluting fossil fuel. Rather it proposes a reduction in the emissions created per unit of economic activity, ensuring it can continue to grow its economy but proposing to do so more efficiently. The mention of “clean coal” technology repeats rhetoric introduced by the coal industry to describe a host of technologies. These include more efficient coal plants and converting coal to gas, which can be burned more cleanly in power stations but in reality, has a higher lifecycle carbon footprint than directly burning coal.
Status: Falling Behind
We give a one star ranking on this because there is no clear-cut plan to phase out coal. Rather, it is expanding. Even though India’s renewable energy plan is praiseworthy, unless the country charts out a clear phase-out plan for coal, it may not attain its Paris commitments.
We call upon you to write to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Coal and Railways, Govt of India, urging upon him to immediately chart a phase-out plan for coal mining and coal fired power plants in order to meet India’s Paris climate commitments, as well as carry out ecological restoration and pollution abatement in all the coal fields.
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