India, China slow down coal expansion, says report

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New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) Cuts in coal-based power plants and a strong growth in renewable energy has caused a significant slowdown of coal expansion in Asian countries, particularly India and China, says a report.

In its third annual survey of the global coal plant pipeline, the report ‘Boom and Bust 2017: Tracking The Global Coal Plant Pipeline’ said 68 GW of construction in India and China is now frozen at over 100 project sites.

However, the survey also pointed to the ongoing over-investment in coal-fired power in India, potentially wasting vast amounts of capital.

Jointly authored by Sierra Club, Greenpeace and Coalswarm, the survey has found that globally there has been a 48 per cent decline in the overall pre-construction activity, a 62 per cent drop in new construction starts and an 85 per cent decline in new Chinese coal plant permits.

In India, 31 coal plant units at 13 sites totalling 12,725 MW of capacity have been stalled, mainly due to frozen financing.

It said power demand in India has not kept pace with the expanding capacity. Besides this, the declining cost of renewables has caused many financial backers of coal projects to withdraw support, leading to a further freeze in construction activity.

The draft National Electricity Plan in India, released by the Central Electricity Authority in December 2016, states that no further coal power capacity beyond that currently under construction will be needed until at least 2027 and the power from ones which are currently under construction will be required only after 2022.

“Despite the slowdown in construction of new plants, and plant load factors dipping to an all-time low, there are more than 170 GW of power plants under various stages of approval,” campaigner with Greenpeace India Sunil Dahiya said in a statement.

Dahiya said the Ministry of Environment and Forests continued to clear further coal power projects and the government continued to stress upon its target of mining 1.5 billion tonnes of coal by 2020.

Last year, Greenpeace India released a report on the coal power overcapacity, which estimated that India would be wasting Rs 3.2 lakh crore on idle coal power plants by 2022.

“However in China and in other parts of the world, 2016 marked a veritable turning point,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, senior global campaigner on coal and air pollution with the Greenpeace.

“China has stopped new coal projects after the astonishing growth of clean energy has made new coal-fired power plants redundant, with all additional power needs ably covered from non-fossil sources since 2013,” Myllyvirta added.

Continued investment on coal is not only an economic challenge. Coal is a primary source for causing air pollution that leads to approximately 12 lakh deaths in India annually.

While China has been cutting down on its coal consumption for the past three years and has vowed to cut 150 million tonnes of coal output capacity this year, India has gone a step backward with the recent news of postponing the implementation of emission norms for coal-fired thermal power plants.

–IANS

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