Recently, Finance Minister said India’s transition away from coal as a fuel for power would be hampered by the Russia-Ukraine war.
- Coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock rich in carbon and hydrocarbons that takes millions of years to develop, making it a non-renewable energy source.
- Coal is also known as black gold
- It contains energy stored by plants that flourished hundreds of millions of years ago in swampy forests.
Why is the ‘move away from coal’ so important?
- The threat of global warming looms over the planet, promising to bring about unprecedented natural calamities.
- An effective way to keep the danger at bay is to cut the use of fossil fuels — coal, natural gas and oil. About 80% of the world’s energy requirements are met by these three fuels.
- They have likely brought on the climate crisis we now face, as they trigger the emission of carbon dioxide.
- Worst culprit: Coal
- It emits nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas and about 60% more than oil, on a kilogram-to-kilogram comparison.
- Combusting coal also leaves behind partially-burnt carbon particles that feed pollution and trigger respiratory disorders.
- The consequence of these chemical reactions gains great significance because, the power sector in India accounts for 49% of total carbon dioxide emissions, compared with the global average of 41%.
India’s dependence on coal:
- As of February 2022, the installed capacity for coal-based power generation across the country was 2.04 lakh megawatt (MW). This accounts for about 51.5% of power from all sources.
- This compares with about 25,000 MW of capacity based on natural gas as fuel, or a mere 6.3% of all installed capacity.
- Renewable power accounted for 1.06 lakh MW or 27%.
- Coal-based power stations are retired periodically which happens all the time.
- But is not fast enough nor are new additions being halted. And with good reason – coal is still inexpensive compared with other sources of energy.
How has war made India’s move away from coal difficult?
- Natural gas has been dubbed as the transition fuel in India’s plans to move away from coal.
- The international cost of natural gas has zoomed in the recent past due to war, from a level that was considered already too high to be financially viable.
- On May 17, 2022, the price per MMBTU of gas was ₹1,425, compared with ₹500 in April, 2021.
- Even back in November last, well before the war made things difficult, the government put in place a committee to ensure that natural gas prices remained stable.
- Of the 25,000 MW of gas-based power plants, about 14,000 MW remains stranded, or idle, because they are financially unviable.
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