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Coal Sector in India UPSC Notes

India’s dependence on coal – Challenges- steps taken to reduce emissions (Prelims, Mains GS2)

Coal Sector in India

India’s dependence on coal?

  • In India, coal is the most important and abundant fossil fuel
  • It provides 55 percent of the country's energy requirements
  • The country's industrial history is based on domestic coal.
  • India's current commercial primary energy consumption per capita is significantly lower than that of developed countries.
  • India's energy consumption is expected to rise as a result of its growing population, expanding economy, and desire for a better quality of life.
  • Due to the limited reserve potentiality of petroleum and natural gas, environmental constraints on hydel projects, and the geopolitical perception of nuclear power, coal will continue to play a prominent role in India's energy scenario.
  • Top 5 States in terms of total coal reserves in India are: Jharkhand > Odisha > Chhattisgarh > West Bengal > Madhya Pradesh.



Challenges

  • The carbon-intensive nature of coal and India's over-reliance on it have raised concerns about the Indian power sector's contribution to global warming and climate change, which have been blamed for increasing the frequency and severity of natural disasters.
  • Over the last few years, India's transition away from coal as a fuel has gained traction, with natural gas and renewable energy being held up as viable alternatives to coal power.
  • On a kilogram-for-kilogram basis, coal emits nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas. Natural gas, unlike coal, does not leave any solid residue after combustion.
  • Despite plans to phase out coal-based power plants, India continues to remain dependent on coal-based power
  • Natural gas prices have risen as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. As a result, replacing coal with it is financially unviable.
  • When compared to other energy sources, coal is still a decent deal.
  • The intermittent nature of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy poses a significant challenge.
  • Storage technologies are still in their infancy, making it difficult for renewable energy sources to become reliable power generators.
  • In contrast to renewable energy sources, coal can provide power on demand.

Steps taken to reduce emissions

  • Improving fleet technology and efficiency, as well as renovating and modernising, are all policies that are required to reduce emissions.
  • Increasing India's renewable electricity generation can help the country's push to retire old and inefficient plants faster.
  • The term "biomass co-firing" refers to the use of biomass as a partial fuel substitute in high-efficiency coal boilers. 
  • Co-firing is a method of converting biomass to electricity in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner while also lowering the power plant's GHG emissions.
  • Coal Beneficiation is a process that improves the quality of raw coal by reducing extraneous matter extracted with the mined coal, reducing associated ash, or both.
  • We require an energy transformation to realise the co-benefits of reduced local and global emissions. We also need to ensure that everyone has access to energy, as energy poverty and inequity are unacceptable.
  • India needs to focus on a diverse energy mix; while solar and wind power have a lot of potential, hydrogen could be a game changer in the Indian energy transition.

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Coal Sector in India UPSC Notes
India’s dependence on coal – Challenges- steps taken to reduce emissions (Prelims, Mains GS2)
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