India: Economic Survey 2019: Sustainable energy a case for clean-coal power plants

India has committed to source 40% power from non-fossil fuel based generation capacities by 2030.

Keeping in view the ground realities, the Survey said that the government should come up with a comprehensive energy policy which should take into consideration the economies of both coal and renewables. The Survey, released in Parliament on Thursday ahead of the Union Budget 2019, said that “given the sustainable energy objectives of the country and the importance that coal based power plants entail, there is a need for building capacity for cleaner and more efficient coal technologies”.

India has committed to source 40% power from non-fossil fuel based generation capacities by 2030.
Stressing on the need to increase energy usage, the Survey said that India has to increase per capita consumption by 2.5 times (from the current level of 24 gigajoules) if it wants to join the upper-middle-income club. In order to have a “high human development” index, the consumption needs to increase fourfold. Despite accounting for 18% of population, India uses only around 6% of the world’s primary energy.

Lauding the doubling of renewable power capacity to the current 78 GW since FY14-end, the Survey said that the expected investment scope in the sector is over $30 billion per year in the next decade. However, “considering the intermittency of renewable power supply, replacing thermal power as the main energy source seems unlikely for a growing economy such as India,” it said.

The Survey cautioned that sudden abandonment of coal power plants would lead to stranding of assets and adversely impact the banking system. It also pointed at the benefits of generating “greater output from available energy resources and its resource endowments”. The estimated coal reserve in the country is more than 319 billion tonne and the power sector used about 550 million tonne of domestic coal in FY19.

The Survey also prescribed that future policy direction should focus on enhanced energy efficiency programmes, which have till now generated cost savings worth more than `50,000 crore. Overall electricity savings from energy efficiency was 7.21% the net electricity consumption in FY18.