From RealClear Energy
By Tilak K. Doshi & CS Krishnadev
August 25, 2021
As we approach the Conference of the Parties to the UN Climate Change Panel (COP26) in Glasgow in November, the UN Climate Change Panel’s efforts to move the world’s major developing countries to increasingly ambitious “decarbonization policies” under the Paris Agreement will have continued stepped up. US climate ambassador John Kerry called on China – by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs) – to do more. With regard to China’s “staggering amount of fossil fuels,” China’s Nationally Set Commitments (NDC) to maximize its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 under the Paris Agreement and its more recent promise of “carbon neutrality” by 2060 are insufficient, according to Kerry .
India, the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, is under similar diplomatic and political pressure in international forums dominated by the EU and the US Biden government, which have made climate policy a core part of their international relations. Although India is the sixth largest economy in the world – with an emerging middle class and world-leading industries ranging from software services to pharmaceuticals – India is still a poor country.
With a gross national income per capita of 1,900 US dollars in 2020, India belongs to the group of countries that are classified as “lower middle income”. For comparison, the global average is $ 11,550; China is slightly lower than the world average at $ 10,610; and the high-income countries generated GNI per capita of US $ 46,040. India’s per capita electricity consumption was estimated at just over 850 KWh in early 2020, just 7.3% of the US per capita consumption and 20% of the Chinese average. A recent survey found that 13% of Indian households do not have access to utility power.
India’s economy is heavily dependent on fossil fuels – coal in particular. In 2020, fossil fuels accounted for almost 90% of the country’s primary energy consumption, and coal alone accounted for almost 55%. Coal is the main pillar of India’s energy sector, accounting for just over 72% of total electricity generation in 2020. Renewable energies (including solar, wind and modern biofuels but excluding hydropower) accounted for less than 10%.
Wind and solar power generation have grown rapidly, but from small bases. Solar production grew at an impressive 90% average annual rate in 2009-19, with an absolute increase of 46 terawatt hours (TWh). Wind grew by almost 15% annually, with an increase of 44 TWh in the same period; Coal, which makes up the bulk of electricity generation, grew at an annual rate of 6.3%, as mentioned earlier. However, given the size of its contribution to total electricity generation, there was no increase of 514 TWh. Unsurprisingly, coal will continue to play an important role in rapidly electrifying India to support robust economic growth. While India plans significant investments in renewable energy, its mainstay will include a major push in the use of coal, oil and natural gas to support the ambitions of continued economic growth.
India’s ambitions to expand the role of renewable energy have been a staple of the mass media, and recent headlines praised the country’s achievement of reaching 100 GW of renewable energy capacity, the fourth largest installed “green” capacity in the world. On India’s 75th Independence Day (August 15), Prime Minister Modi tweeted in capital letters: “INDIA HAS SET THE GOAL OF 450 GW OF RENEWABLE ENERGY FOR 2030. Big Business in India also announced plans for big investments in the industry. Reliance Industries has pledged to raise $ 75,000 billion (approx.