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Opportunity for low-emission coal technology in India

Published by
World Coal,

The World Coal Association (WCA) has recently published a flagship report “The Case for Coal: India’s Energy Trilemma”. The report focuses on the obstacles in the way of attaining India’s growing energy needs, future energy demand, CO2 abatement costs and the role that can be played by high-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) coal technologies.

India is currently the world’s third largest energy consumer and this is expected to increase over the next few years due to economic development, urbanisation and improved electricity access. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that by 2040 India’s energy consumption will be more than OECD Europe combined, and rapidly approaching that of the US.

Benjamin Sporton, CEO of the WCA, said: “India has 300 million people who don’t have access to electricity. As with many developing economies, India needs all sources of energy available to meet its growing energy needs using the best possible technology. With the IEA predicting that coal will continue to make the largest contribution to electricity generation in India through to 2040, it is essential that we promote the best available technologies to ensure coal is used as cleanly as possible.”

Key findings from the report included:

  • The Indian government’s policies to meet the growing need for electricity are focused on developing large-scale coal-fired power plants.
  • India’s technology choice to meet future energy requirements has significant implications on CO2 emissions.
  • A $1 Billion expenditure in ultra-supercritical coal in India could abate more CO2 than the same expenditure in European renewables.
  • Coal is expected to remain the most cost-effective way to abate CO2 in India, accounting for declines in the capital cost of renewables and increased gas availability.

The report highlights benefits of deploying supercritical and ultra-supercritical technology. The WCA analysis shows that replacing subcritical capacity currently in the development pipeline with supercritical or ultra-supercritical technology would lead to significant reductions in CO2 emissions for India over the life of the power plants.

Sporton continued: “Our analysis shows that investing in super and ultra-supercritical technologies in India remains a cost-effective carbon abatement alternative compared to investment in other generation technologies. Furthermore, from a global perspective, our research shows that investing in ultra-supercritical technologies in India may lead to higher CO2 abatement than investing in renewables in Europe.”

If the average global efficiency of coal-fired power plants was raised from 33% – 40% with the use of off-the-shelf technology available today, it could save approximately 2 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions – the equivalent of running the Kyoto Protocol three times over.

“As we approach COP21, it's essential that we quicken the deployment of all low-emission technologies, including HELE. This is particularly true in countries, such as India, where energy demand is growing rapidly and the current trend is for subcritical power stations to be built. HELE technologies allow developing countries to minimise CO2 emissions, while not sacrificing legitimate economic development and poverty alleviation efforts.

“Expanding efficient coal consumption will help address India’s energy trilemma of meeting demand, reducing energy poverty and actively participating in climate change commitments,” concluded Sporton.

Edited from press release by Harleigh Hobbs

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