India: In Coal's Shadow

India’s electricity demand will more than triple the next 15 years and the main electricity source will continue to be coal. This places a constant gloomy shadow over any tale of India and climate change mitigation.  

By Solveig Aamodt, CICERO

However, the total picture is made up of various factors and trends, and some of them even point in a positive direction in 2017 

After much international media speculation on how India would follow up the US-China climate deal before COP21, India launched its INDC targets without any major surprises in October 2015. India continues with the aim to mitigate climate change through policies on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and afforestation.  

Enhanced energy production, security, and access are some of the government’s main measures for developing India. Much of India’s coal reserves are of low quality, and India has been dependent on imported coal. Domestic coal production is increasing and import of coal is now declining. Imports are expected to decline further in 2017, making India self-sufficient in coal supply within a few years Development of other domestic energy sources is decisive for the role of coal in India’s future energy matrix.   

Regardless of the global climate policy insecurities following Brexit and the US election, Indian climate policy will continue on its planned path. Indian climate and energy policy has been quite insensitive to developments in international politics, although international developments in energy prices, science, and technology have been important for domestic policy development. Indian private and public energy actors all emphasise the importance of technology transfer and foreign investment for energy production and infrastructure developments.   

2017 is expected to be a booming year for Indian solar energy. Of India’s mitigation measures, the solar power plan is probably the most likely to be implemented, although reaching the goal of 100 GW by 2022 is still somewhat uncertain. 2017 will be a decisive year for spurring solar power capacity. Wind and offshore wind power developments are also expected to gain focus in 2017, along with the Green Energy Corridor program for grids to transport renewable energy around India.  

India’s economic growth is expected to continue in 2017, and the purchasing power of millions of Indians will increase. Efforts to introduce LED light bulbs, energy efficient household appliances, and electric cars are expected to increase in 2017 

Major afforestation will be difficult in the short and medium term. 70 per cent of India’s infrastructure is not yet built, and there will be a conflict between infrastructure and forest cover in the further development of the country 

Structural factors also hinder a rapid transition to low carbon solutions in all sectors. The governance system for implementing policies is very fragmented, and the division between federal, state, and local level responsibilities on climate and environment is still unclear. At all governance levels precarious tasks on health, sanitation, poverty, and education take priority over climate and environment. However, implementation of policies for the benefit of all these needs, such as improving air and water quality, is expected to increase. India’s carbon footprint will increase in 2017, but reaching the INDC target of a 33-35 per cent reduction in emissions intensity of GDP compared to 2005 levels by 2030, is still within reach.