Urgent decision from India to secure coal supplies at the expense of environmental protection - Energy

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  • 50% increase in production capacity of coal plants
  • Relaxation of rules for environmental impact approvals and approval of local residents
  • 70% of electricity generation in India is from coal plants
  • India aims to produce 1.2 billion metric tons of coal by 2023-2024

India is seeking to secure additional supplies of domestic coal to get out of the grinding energy crisis that has hit the country, led to blackouts and escalation of popular protests in the South Asian country.

India has eased environmental approvals for coal mining expansions to boost production, amid fuel shortages that have caused hours of power outages.

Some existing plants will be able to increase production by about 10% without the need for new environmental impact assessments, and rules around consulting local residents have been relaxed, according to a government memo.

Coal stocks are declining

New environmental changes in India are coming to ease the huge pressure on domestic coal supplies, in the world’s second largest producer, importer and consumer of coal after China.

Coal stocks in India’s power plants fell to their lowest level in 9 years, amid a heat wave that pushed electricity demand to record levels, the highest in four decades.

Blackouts and lack of power supply in some industries sparked protests in the Indian streets.

Fossil fuels account for more than 70% of India’s electricity generation, and coal-mining mines and crumbling transportation infrastructure are unable to meet the country’s growing energy demand.

The shortage of railway cars needed to transport fuel from mines to power stations has exacerbated the country’s energy deficit crisis.

coal in india
A worker sits on a truck loaded with coal, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India – Photo by Reuters

India had canceled many passenger train trips last April; With the aim of clearing the railway track for transporting coal.

The environmental changes, which came after numerous complaints that the length of time to obtain approvals could hamper efforts to solve the energy crisis, will continue for 6 months.

The miners aim to speed up production before the rainy season begins in late June; Which could lead to the flooding of coal mines and slow production rates, according to the local newspaper The Economic Times.

Coal production increased by 50%

“Weakening environmental regulations may ultimately be counterproductive,” said Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Center for Energy and Clean Air Research.

She added that bypassing public consultations creates friction between mining operations and the local population, which could lead to popular protests and legal challenges.

She noted the belief of policy makers that such exceptions can make doing business easier, when the reality is just the opposite.

The Ministry of Environment’s exemption allows mines that have obtained approvals to expand production by 40%, to increase their production by 50% more than the planned production capacity.

India plans to reopen more than 100 coal mines that were previously closed due to their financial unviability.

India expects to produce an additional 75-100 million tons of fuel over the next 2-3 years from the mines that will be reopened.

Carbon neutrality in India

India – the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases – must stick to its carbon-neutral goals to avoid future supply shocks, and take measures including modernizing the power grid and the ability to produce energy equipment, said an expert at the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Viphuti Garg. Solar and wind energy.

Wind farms in India – Photo by Reuters

“The long-term solution is to build more renewable energy plants,” she added, in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

India plans to achieve carbon neutrality in the country by 2070 and aims to produce 500 gigawatts of electricity from renewable sources of energy by 2030.

India produced 777.2 million tons of fuel in the year ending March 31, and burned more than 1 billion tons.

The state-owned Cole India, which produces about 80% of coal in India, increased production by 27.2% last April.

The Indian government aims to increase the country’s coal production to 1.2 billion metric tons by 2023-2024, to reduce imports and bridge the gap between supply and demand.

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