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India's Dilemma: Navigating The Transition From Coal In Pursuit Of Net-Zero India's electricity landscape is heavily reliant on coal, which currently accounts for a staggering 73 per cent of total generation.

By Priyanka Tanwer

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As the world collectively strives towards achieving net-zero emissions targets, India finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with the complex task of transitioning away from coal-based energy generation.

According to International Energy Agency (IEA) India's electricity landscape is heavily reliant on coal, which currently accounts for a staggering 73 per cent of total generation. With the power sector alone contributing 45 per cent of the nation's carbon emissions, the imperative to transition to renewable sources has never been more pressing.

However, the transition comes at a significant cost, particularly to sectors deeply entrenched in coal. Somit Dasgupta of Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) underscores the profound impact of retiring coal-based plants on employment in the coal mining sector, raising questions about the feasibility of a complete phase-out in the near future.

Government policies play a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of this transition. While previous plans aimed at retiring aging coal plants, recent shifts in policy reflect a hesitancy to abandon coal entirely.

The government's decision to extend the operational life of some plants beyond 25 years underscores the complexities of balancing economic interests with environmental imperatives.

However, international case studies provide valuable insights into successful transitions away from coal, but India faces unique challenges. Unlike countries with access to cheap gas or robust renewable infrastructure, India grapples with bureaucratic hurdles, limited hydro resources, and policy barriers hindering renewable growth.

The working paper by ICRIER advocates for a nuanced approach to decommissioning coal plants, emphasizing the need for expert committees comprising diverse stakeholders to navigate the complex landscape. With input from power engineers, economists, and regulators, informed decisions can be made to ensure a just and sustainable transition.

Priyanka Tanwer

Feature Writer

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.     
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