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Reality Check: Indian Coal Consumption to Quadruple by 2030

While environmental groups in developed nations talk of a coming world based on solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy, India’s 8 percent economic growth rate is powered by coal. Its consumption is projected to increase by at least 400 percent by the year 2030, according to the government’s 2005 Integrated Energy Policy report.

This means that in the next 20 years, India will extract, transport, import and burn coal at record rates. It could emit between 4 billion and 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year and approach the United States’ current emission levels, according to the report.

“While others are worrying about global warming, India’s energy elite fret mainly about how to secure enough coal,” David Victor, a researcher at the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University, recently wrote in the Boston Review.

About 70 percent of India’s electricity comes from coal-burning plants, and that fraction is likely to grow, according to Victor. At the moment, India’s power supply is running about 12 percent behind demand, resulting in frequent blackouts. There is also a shortage of coking coal needed to feed the demands of cement and steel manufacturing. […]

“I operate 473 mines,” said Partha Bhattacharyya, chairman of the company. “If product fails in some mines, I can’t keep consumers hungry, so I want to cover the gap from adjoining mines after caring for the environment.”

There are plans to increase production of solar and nuclear power, but coal will provide more than half of the energy needs of India at least until 2030, according to government reports.

“Even if India somehow succeeds in developing 100,000 megawatts of renewable capacity over the next 25 years compared to 6,161 megawatts as on March 2005, the contribution of renewables to our energy mix does not go beyond 4.5 percent of total electricity required in 2031 to 2032,” states the nation’s Integrated Energy Policy report.

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