The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), introduced in 2015 as the government’s think tank, released on Thursday a Three Year Action Agenda (2017-18 to 2019-20) which lays down the government short term policies in different sectors of the economy.
The report says that India has 304 million people without access to electricity and that “the reality of India’s energy sector is that around three-quarters of our power comes from coal powered plants and this scenario will not change significantly over the coming decades”.
Based on this, it suggests a 9-point action plan to increase the production of coal:
- By 2019, the government will explore 25% of the untapped 5,100 sq km balance coal bearing area to ensure availability of more coal mining blocks.
- At the institutional level, an independent organisation will be created to develop and maintain the repository of all coal related geological information in the country.
- Use market mechanisms to open the coal-mining sector for commercial mining.
- Improve labour productivity, increase coal production and enhance the efficiency of distribution.
- Completion of three railway projects to assist in the transport of coal.
- The government must employ more Coal-Handing and Preparation Plants (CHPP) that wash coal before shipping. This process removes ash and debris, thereby increasing the energy content per tonne by 10-20%.
- On the lines of China, the Indian government must take steps to reduce the use of low quality coal.
- Adopt clean-coal technologies including coal gasification.
- Boost production, the on-going auction process and transfer of mining lease and other related activities of captive mines to the new successful bidders should be expedited by 2018.
The report says, “it is important that India increases its domestic coal production to provide energy security and reduce its dependence on imports. The energy security may be further enhanced through diversification of the import sources and reduced energy requirement.”
“In the near to medium term, India must adopt cost-effective energy efficiency policy solutions. It should intervene in the market only when it is clear that the benefits from cutting pollution outweigh the extra cost of the energy efficient solution. Such an approach will lay the groundwork for making India a more energy efficient economy by 2031-32.,” it adds.
The government’s assessment echoes its earlier views on using coal as a dominant source of energy in the country.
In its 2015 Paris Agreement submission, the government had said, “Coal based power as of now accounts for about 60.8% (167.2 GW) of India’s installed capacity. In order to secure reliable, adequate and affordable supply of electricity, coal will continue to dominate power generation in future.”
The government mentions “clean coal technology” which means using more efficient coal plants and converting coal to gas, which can be burned more cleanly in power stations but actually has a higher lifecycle carbon footprint than directly burning coal, reports Climate Change News, adding that even the most efficient coal power stations are major carbon polluters.
Climate Change News adds that the only way to substantially reduce the climate change impact of coal is to store its emissions underground – a technically feasible process but yet to be proven on a commercial scale.
With climate change catching up with us, it is essential that the efforts be taken to reduce the pollution caused by coal. In May this year, India was named the second-best country in 2017 Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI). Despite this, coal will continue to remain a dominant power generator for decades to come. The Logical Indian community hopes that the government assesses its strategies for clean coal.