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Coal production UPSC NOTE

 India’s Current Energy Composition

  • According to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI), India's total energy consumption in 2022-23 was 1.33 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (toe). 

  • This represents a growth of 6.7% over the previous year.

  • India's energy consumption is dominated by coal, which accounts for around 46% of the total.

  • Other major sources of energy include oil (24%), renewable energy (20%), and natural gas (5%).

  • The government is targeting to increase renewable energy's share in the total energy mix to 70% by 2030.

  • Here is a sector-wise breakdown of India's energy consumption in 2022-23:

  1. Industry: 38%

  2. Transport: 24%

  3. Households: 22%

  4. Agriculture: 16%

  • The government is taking a number of steps to reduce India's dependence on fossil fuels and to improve energy efficiency. These include:

  • The government is offering a number of incentives to promote the development and use of renewable energy. These include subsidies, tax breaks, and priority grid access.

  • The government is implementing a number of programs to improve energy efficiency in all sectors of the economy. These programs include energy audits, energy management systems, and energy-efficient appliances.

  •  The government is promoting the use of alternative fuels, such as biofuels and electric vehicles, to reduce oil consumption.

  • India's energy consumption is a complex issue with a number of challenges. 

  • The government is taking a number of steps to address these challenges and to ensure that India's energy needs are met in a sustainable manner.

Coal's Role

  • According to Central Electricity Authority (CEA) projections for FY32, India’s national grid can absorb 924 TWh of electricity from renewable energy sources by adding 47 GW of battery storage capacity and 27 GW of pumped storage projects.

  • Batteries will become cost-effective only after 2030

  • The tariffs of pithead TPPs are only 40% of the round-the-clock tariffs for solar plants backed by battery storage in India today. 

  • Further, any increase in battery storage capacity in India will require the import of critical minerals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, and graphite, which are controlled by other countries (mainly, China), posing significant risks to India’s energy security.

  • Ninety-six percent of the coal used by TPPs in India comes from domestic mines and is key to keeping electricity affordable in India. 

  • So the CEA projects that TPP capacity in India will reach 259-262 GW by FY32, from 212 GW in FY23.

  • Recent projections indicate that only 19 GW of pumped storage projects and 18 GW battery storage capacity additions are expected by FY32, which will require a further 23 GW of TPP capacity to be added to the grid by then.

  • To balance this with India’s long-term goal of reaching net-zero by 2070, the country must continue to implement more efficient clean coal technologies.

Challenges and Solutions in use of coal

  • Coal is a fossil fuel that has been used for centuries to generate electricity, heat homes, and power industries.

  • The use of coal has a number of negative impacts on the environment and human health. These challenges include:

  • Air pollution: Coal combustion releases a number of harmful air pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. These pollutants can cause a variety of health problems, including respiratory problems, heart disease, and cancer

  • Water pollution: Coal mining and processing can contaminate water sources with heavy metals and other pollutants. This pollution can harm aquatic life and make water unsafe to drink

  • Climate change: Coal combustion is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. Climate change is causing a number of problems, including rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, and changes in agricultural patterns. 

  • Land use: Coal mining can destroy large areas of land and can disrupt ecosystems. This can lead to the loss of biodiversity and can make it difficult to restore the land to its former state. 


Following are some solutions

  • Increasing the use of renewable energy sources: Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and geothermal power, are clean sources of energy that do not emit harmful pollutants. 

  • Improving energy efficiency: Improving energy efficiency can reduce the amount of coal that is needed to generate electricity and heat homes. This can be done by using more energy-efficient appliances, making buildings more energy-efficient, and adopting energy-efficient industrial processes. 

  • Investing in carbon capture and storage: Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a technology that

can capture carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants and store them underground. This can prevent the emissions from entering the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. 

  • Phasing out coal: The most effective way to address the challenges of coal use is to phase out coal altogether. This can be done by investing in renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and adopting CCS technologies.

  • Putting a price on carbon: Putting a price on carbon would make coal more expensive to use, which would encourage businesses and consumers to switch to cleaner energy sources. 

  • Investing in renewable energy research and development: Investing in renewable energy research and development would help to reduce the cost of renewable energy technologies and make them more competitive with coal. 

  • Providing subsidies and incentives for renewable energy: Providing subsidies and incentives for renewable energy would make it more affordable to install and use renewable energy technologies. 

  • Regulating coal emissions: Regulating coal emissions would limit the amount of air pollution that can be emitted from coal-fired power plants.

Issue with desulphurisers

  • Indian coals generally have less sulphur than that mined in other coal-rich countries

  • TPPs in India have tall stacks, and the flue gas’ exit velocity plus favourable weather conditions means sulphur dioxide emissions are widely dispersed. 

  • Historical sulphur dioxide emissions have created a cooling effect by masking global temperature rise by 0.5 degrees Celsius.

  • Retrofitting existing TPPs with flue-gas desulphurisers (FGDs), increases their specific coal consumption by 1.5-1.7%, leading to lower efficiency and higher emissions. 

  • FGDs require large capital investments leading to tariff hikes.

  • India can therefore reduce particulate emissions by more than 99.97% by installing low-cost, high-performance electrostatic precipitators and reserve FGDs for TPPs near urban areas.


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