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Balancing EV Growth with Fossil Fuel Dependency In India The coal stocks at Thermal Power Plants remain robust, exceeding 45 million tonnes (MT) as on June 16, 2024, which is ~ 31.71 per cent higher compared to the same period last year when it was 34.25 MT.

By Priyanka Tanwer

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Photo Curtesy: Freepik

India stands at a critical juncture in its journey towards sustainability, balancing rapid economic growth with environmental conservation. In the backdrop of reducing carbon emission, there is a urgency of transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) as a pivotal step in reducing carbon emission and achieving sustainable development goals. Central to this transition is the expansion and enhancement of EV charging infrastructure across the country.

However, India's energy mix has historically been dominated by coal and thermal power, crucial for meeting the nation's growing energy demands but also contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

According to a recent data released by Ministry of Coal, there has been the highest ever stocks of coal available at the thermal power plants.

The coal stocks at Thermal Power Plants remain robust, exceeding 45 million tonnes (MT) as on June 16, 2024, which is ~ 31.71 per cent higher compared to the same period last year when it was 34.25 MT.

The demand of Coal based power has grown by 7.30 per cent in this FY compared to last year in same period. This is highest ever demand of coal.

As per the government data, there are 12,146 EV charging stations in the country, the number keep on increasing to boost the adoption of electric vehicles which means there will be another increased in electricity demand. There are very few stations which are running on solar panels.

Recognizing these challenges, the country has committed to increasing the share of renewable energy sources in its energy mix, aiming for 40 per cent of installed capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.

Akshit Bansal, Founder & CEO, Statiq says that transitioning to a sustainable future is a multi-step process. Investment in solar, wind, and hydropower can gradually reduce dependence on coal and natural gas. Implementing smart grids and energy storage solutions will improve efficiency and reliability.

"Regarding charging stations powered by diesel generators, sustainability is a valid concern. While these stations provide a vital service for electric vehicles (EVs), their reliance on fossil fuels contradicts the goal of reducing carbon emissions," Bansal added.

While developed countries are way ahead in implementing renewable energy infrastructure, India's economic context is different. It needs to address a sharp growth in peak demand while walking on the path of energy transition.

"It would be appropriate to look at the progress on transition in terms of percentage of clean and green energy in the total energy mix. India is making steady progress on its commitment of installing 500 GW RE generation capacity and having 50 per cent RE in the energy mix by 2030," Anujesh Dwivedi, Partner, Deloitte India said.

Meanwhile, he said that the effectiveness of electric vehicles (EVs) in reducing carbon emissions can be undermined if the charging stations rely on diesel generators. Ideally, EV charging stations should be powered by renewable energy sources to fully realize their environmental benefits.

Achieving sustainability is complex, especially when thermal power is essential for electricity generation. However, even when powered by electricity from a mixed grid, EVs still offer substantial environmental benefits over internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

"While diesel-powered EV charging stations exist and can provide a temporary solution in areas with unreliable grid power, they are not widely favoured due to environmental concerns, inefficiency compared to grid electricity, regulatory challenges, and the availability of cleaner alternatives. As the push towards sustainability and cleaner energy sources continues, the adoption of diesel generators in EV charging infrastructure is likely to remain limited or transition to more eco-friendly options," Nimish Trivedi, Founder & CEO, Evera told Entrepreneur India.

Speaking on the charging stations being powered by diesel generators, Mukesh Kumar Bansal, CTO, TelioEV said that despite the potential of electric vehicles (EVs) to reduce emissions, a substantial number of charging stations presently rely on diesel generators for their power supply. This undermines the environmental advantages of electric vehicles (EVs) and underscores the necessity of a more environmentally friendly charging infrastructure.

"The significance of actively promoting renewable energy sources to power EV charging stations and reducing dependence on diesel generators is underscored by experts. This essential step would establish a sustainable electric mobility ecosystem in India, enabling the country to promote cleaner transportation options and combat climate change," he added.

On the positive side, India has not only met but exceeded its commitment made at the COP21 summit held in Paris in 2015 by generating 40 per cent of its power from non-fossil fuels.

India's installed non-fossil fuel capacity has increased 396 per cent in the last 8 years and stands at more than 200 GW (including large Hydro and nuclear), about 45 per cent of the country's total capacity (as of May 2024).

The country saw the highest year-on-year growth in renewable energy additions of ~10 per cent in 2022. A 2023 report by the International Energy Agency stated that India is expected to produce over half of the world's new capacity for renewable energy over the next three years.

Supporting this, Sameer Jain, Managing Director, Primus Partners said that the country has planned a gradual transition for itself towards attainment of Green energy mix. This is because with an increased supply, the demand is increasing too. India is seeing an increasing energy consumption per capita, indicating improved access to electricity across the country.

He said that the EV industry is projected to become a USD 266-billion market by 2030. It currently boasts around three million registered EVs. Between January and July 2023, sales shot up by 131 percent. In contrast, ICE vehicles recorded a mere 5 percent growth.

Approximately 7,500 electric cars are sold each month. However, what's said about EV carrying the negative burden of many charging stations running on diesel generator, is true. It is from the Power Grids that EV get their charge from. Perhaps, the only way this can be made better is when efficiencies of thermal power plants improve. Currently the efficiency of a thermal power plant in India is about 30-35 per cent.

"Integrating renewable energy with thermal power infrastructure presents a viable path forward. Hybrid systems combining solar, wind, and storage technologies offer a reliable and sustainable energy mix," he added.

India's goal of achieving sustainability amidst its reliance on coal and thermal power necessitates a shift towards cleaner transportation solutions. Strengthening EV charging infrastructure is pivotal, facilitating widespread adoption of electric mobility powered by renewable energy. Government initiatives, private sector investments, and technological advancements are key in building a robust charging network to meet evolving market needs. Embracing electric mobility integrated with renewable energy can pave the way towards a cleaner, greener future and sustainable economic growth for India.

Priyanka Tanwer

Sr. Correspondent

With eight years of experience covering various beats for the digital and print media, now covering electric vehicles and sustainability for Entrepreneur India, keeping a nose for innovation and new technology in this futuristic sector. You can reach me at tpriyanka@entrepreneurindia.com     
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