Saturday, June 22, 2024

No coal power plant in India receives lending second consecutive year: Analysis

As representatives from nearly 200 nations gather for over a week for COP28, this year’s annual UN climate conference, being held in the oil-producing UAE and led by the head of the country’s state oil giant, back home in India for the second year in a row no coal power plant has received project finance lending in 2022.

This fact came to light in an analysis authored by Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA) and Climate Trends that was released in Dubai on Friday.

Lenders preferred financing renewable energy projects over coal. The report found that all energy projects that reached financial closure for project finance lending in 2022 were renewable energy projects.

On the flip side, it also showed a 45 per cent reduction in project finance to renewable energy.

The 2023 Coal vs Renewables Investment Report assessed 68 project finance loans across 11 coal and renewable energy projects in India that reached financial closure between January 1, 2022, and December 31, 2022.

While renewable energy projects are defined as hydroelectric, geothermal, wave, wind, or solar power projects, this report looked at wind and solar project finance loans only.

The total project finance loans amounted to Rs 18,577 crore ($2.36 billion), of which 100 per cent flowed into renewable energy projects. However, the total amount is a 45 per cent decrease from 2021 levels. This could be a result of several external factors such as project delays due to the pandemic, supply line disruptions, increase in costs of finance due to higher interest rates as well as increased costs due to domestic policies.

Like last year, solar power was the dominant renewable energy, accounting for six out of 11 deals, or 40 per cent of financing. However, solar lending in 2022 dropped by over 64 per cent to Rs 7,361 crore ($935 million), financing 1,849 megawatts (MW) of solar projects.

Wind power comprised only four per cent of total renewable energy lending in 2022, financing two projects equalling 144 MW of wind energy. This represents a more than 80 per cent decrease compared to 2021.

“There has been curiosity around India not signing the global pledge to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency at the COP28 despite it championing the idea during its G20 presidency. Since the pledge on renewables was framed in recognition of reducing investments in coal, most likely India did so to ensure it defends its use of coal for energy security in the foreseeable future,” Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends, told IANS.

“However, this analysis shows project finance investments towards solar and wind in 2022 reflect India’s commitment to its NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) 2030 target of 500 gigawatts of electricity generation from non-fossil fuel sources. Making finance more accessible and affordable for renewable energy will not only help India outperform its own commitments but also strengthen its position as a climate leader of the global south,” she said.

The majority of loans came from commercial banks, totalling five deals and 68 per cent of overall funding.

Commercial lending for renewable projects decreased by 51 per cent from 2021 levels. The Coöperatieve Rabobank UA was the largest lender, with a loan totalling Rs 7,749 crore ($985 million). This loan outperforms the largest renewables loan of 2021, provided by L&T Finance, which was Rs 4,214 crore ($565 million).

“The cost of renewable energy with storage is now comparable and cheaper than new coal plant construction, irrespective of the location. Besides losing out to renewable energy on per unit cost of electricity, coal power plants will have to be retired within a decade from now,” said Joe Athialy, Executive Director, Centre for Financial Accountability.

“Financial institutions are reluctant to fund coal projects, be it power plant construction or coal mining, knowing fully well that the global outlook on coal remains heavily negative.”

Like in 2021, Rajasthan was the biggest beneficiary of renewable energy lending compared to other states, with over Rs 7,579 crore ($963 million).

India has already installed close to 132 GW of renewable energy from its earlier target of 175 GW and yet is determined to make additional power demand be met by renewables where possible.

The World Energy Outlook 2023 pegs that India will meet its 2030 target to have half of its electricity capacity be non-fossil well before the end of the decade.

As financial institutions reduce their investments in coal projects, policy and regulations must also ensure more funds flow towards renewable energy projects.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at gulatiians@gmail.com)

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