Good news from India, as authorities report the scrapping of plans for nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations.
India is the world’s second most populous country, and one of the fastest growing economies. Several projections put future India as the world’s most populous country and the world’s third largest economy by 2050, so if we are to truly combat global warming and achieve a sustainable future for the planet, India will be a key player.
Looking at India’s development over the past few decades has been quite a rollercoaster. With poverty running rampant through many parts of the country and a severe lack of infrastructure in the rural areas, it was surprising and inspiring to see the country’s ambitions in terms of renewable energy. In recent years, India has become one of the best markets for solar energy, with more and more panels being installed every day.
There are over 300 million people currently living in India with no access to electricity, most of which live in rugged, inaccessible areas. Establishing a conventional grid would be incredibly costly, but this is the beauty of solar power: it doesn’t really require a conventional grid. Aside from being renewable, clean, and cheap, solar can work with a local or separated grid.
Still, despite India investing massively in renewable energy (mostly solar), they’ve also developed a backup plan — also committing to fossil fuel energy, especially coal; pretty much the dirtiest source of energy. Last year, India announced plans to build more than 300 gigawatts (GW) of new coal capacity by 2030, even though that was found to be almost entirely unnecessary and wasteful, as over 90% of that new capacity would remain idle. Basically, the Indian government remained determined to not put all their eggs in one basket and invest both in renewable and fossil fuel energy.
Coal of the past
In 2017, things changed a bit. The Indian state of Gujarat announced the cancellation of a proposed 4 GW coal ultra-mega power project, citing a surplus of energy in the area and a desire to continue moving away from coal. That was just the start.
Now, in total, 13.7GW of planned coal power projects have been canceled this month alone, which is quite a figure.
Analyst Tim Buckley, director of energy finance studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) said that tariffs have dropped so much in India that a tipping point has been reached: solar energy is now cheaper than coal.
“Measures taken by the Indian Government to improve energy efficiency coupled with ambitious renewable energy targets and the plummeting cost of solar has had an impact on existing as well as proposed coal fired power plants, rendering an increasing number as financially unviable.”
“India’s solar tariffs have literally been free falling in recent months,” he added.
It’s a positive prospect for India, which could trigger a chain reaction elsewhere in the world.