India’s energy minister champions cleaner coal and renewables as way forward

India’s energy minister Piyush Goyal says his country is pursuing cleaner coal-fired power along with renewables as the means in which the country will achieve its electrification targets.

In the last three years the government has succeeded in reducing the number of villages without electricity from 18,000 to 4,061, according to Goyal, whose prime minister Narenrda Modi has pledged for the whole country to have round-the-clock access to electricity by 2022.
Piyush Goyal
Goyal, according to the FT, believes this target can be reached by 2019.

“My prime minister is focused on speed and scale,” he says in an interview, referring to Indian leader Narendra Modi. “He doesn’t like small targets.”

Coal capacity has almost tripled in the past decade to 192GW and a further 65GW is under construction. Meanwhile the share of green energy has grown to about 30 per cent. This is now being supplemented by rapid expansion in solar power. Plummeting costs have spurred forecasts that Indian solar capacity could double this year to 18GW, which would be more than six times greater than when Mr Modi’s government took power three years ago.

India is planning to install 225 GW of renewables by 2022. This puts the country on course for green energy to account for as much as 57 per cent of electricity capacity by 2027, well ahead of its Paris target of 40 per cent by 2030. Mr Goyal plans a big push for electric vehicles and battery storage as a way to tackle not only carbon emissions but also severe air pollution in Indian cities.

Although not official government policy, he has declared that he wants all new cars sold in India in 2030 to be electric. “Not even 15-20 per cent of the cars that will be on the road in 2030 have been sold today,” he says. “We’re going to have first-time vehicle owners in huge numbers. Imagine if those first-time owners can get electric cars which are cheaper to operate than a petrol car.”

He added that there is a limit to how far and fast India’s economy can move beyond fossil fuels.

“Every country needs a baseload,” he says. “I cannot tell my country, ‘guys, it’s 6pm in the evening, shut everything down because the solar has gone off’.”

Mr Goyal argues that the shift towards “cleaner” coal will make a bigger impact on Indian emissions than all its renewables combined. “Thirty per cent of our people are living in poverty,” he says. “I cannot tell them: British people have benefited from coal-based power for 200 years and have spewed all that carbon up there and now India will pay three times the cost.”

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