INDIA, 2012

Workers load coal into trucks in Bari Brahamana on the outskirts of Jammu, in the state of Jammu and Kashmir


© Reuters / Mukesh Gupta


Of all common sources of energy, coal has the worst impact on the environment. Unfortunately, it is also the cheapest. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that immediately after China, which consumes 50% of the world’s coal, comes India at 10%. Coal is used to supply around 50% of India’s primary energy needs and 55% of its electricity. Even this is not enough to supply energy to all homes and industries, however. Millions of Indian houses are still not connected to the grid. To tackle this problem, the Indian government has prioritised an increase in the production of cheap electrical energy, without worrying about sustainability. No penalties are in place to combat pollution and most coal goes to old, state-owned power stations located near the mines, which can generate electricity competitively thanks to low transport costs.
These power stations are also advantaged by so-called PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements) issued by the government, which controls the electrical transmission and distribution grid. This is one of the main obstacles to renewable energy development in India: the organisation that manages the grid is permanently in the red and therefore unable to evolve and integrate renewable sources more effectively.
This situation is unlikely to improve, as new coal-fuelled power stations with a capacity of 62 GW are approaching completion and are sorely needed to supply electricity to a larger swathe of the population.

Giulio Guggia