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India’s Coal Dependence in the Face of Rising Energy Demands and Renewable Goals

As the world grapples with climate change, India’s increasing reliance on coal poses a significant challenge. The nation’s growing energy demands, coupled with ambitious renewable energy targets, present a complex scenario. Despite commitments to achieving net-zero emissions and increasing renewable energy capacity, India continues to expand its coal production. This article explores the reasons behind this apparent contradiction and what it means for India’s energy future.

A Surge in India’s Energy Demand

Economic Growth and Energy Consumption

India, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, is witnessing a substantial increase in energy consumption. In 2022, the nation’s power demand grew by approximately 8%, nearly double the pace of the Asia-Pacific region.

Increased industrial and commercial activity is the main factor driving this surge. The residential sector accounts for a quarter of India’s power usage, with agriculture also being a significant consumer.

Future Projections and Challenges

The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that India will experience the largest growth in energy demand globally over the next 30 years.

A striking example is the expected nine-fold increase in electricity use for air conditioning by 2050, surpassing the current total power consumption of Africa. Meeting these demands presents a formidable challenge.

Coal: India’s Current Energy Backbone

Increasing coal production

In response to these challenges, India has intensified its coal production. From 2021–22 to 2022–23, coal production rose by 14%, reaching 893 million tons. The government has set even higher targets for the coming years, aiming for 1.5 billion tons by 2030.

Reasons for Coal Dependence

  • Insufficient Renewable Capacity: Currently, only 22% of India’s total energy is generated from renewable sources, with fossil fuels, predominantly coal, supplying 75%. Despite efforts to increase renewable energy, it falls short of meeting current demands.
  • Renewables’ Reliability Issues: Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are inconsistent, depending on factors such as sunlight and wind availability. India’s need for over 60 GW of battery storage to fully utilize its renewable potential is hindered by the high costs and supply chain challenges associated with grid-scale battery storage.
  • Hydropower Complexities: Hydropower, another renewable option, faces ecological, infrastructural, and geopolitical challenges, particularly in the Himalayan region, where many projects are planned or underway.

Renewable Energy Landscape

Ambitious Goals and Current Realities

India aims to achieve 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030, a significant increase from the current 180 GW. However, the constraints of rapidly scaling up renewable energy infrastructure mean coal will remain a primary energy source.

Phase-Down Approach

Union Minister R. K. Singh has highlighted that India plans to phase down, rather than phase out, coal use. By 2030, fossil fuels are expected to account for about 35% of electricity generation, down from the current 60%. However, in absolute terms, coal capacity is likely to increase to meet the rising electricity demand.

Challenges and Opportunities in Transition

Balancing growth and sustainability

India’s energy policy faces the dual challenge of supporting economic growth and ensuring environmental sustainability. The transition to renewable energy must be balanced with the immediate need to meet burgeoning energy demands.

Investment and Innovation in Renewables

Accelerating investment in renewable energy technologies and infrastructure is crucial. Innovations in energy storage, grid management, and efficient renewable generation can pave the way for a more sustainable energy mix.

International Collaboration and Support

India’s energy transition will benefit from international collaboration and support, especially in technology transfer and financial assistance. Global partnerships are essential in addressing the challenges of climate change and sustainable development.


India’s continued reliance on coal, amidst growing energy demand and ambitious renewable goals, reflects a complex energy landscape. While coal remains a necessary part of India’s energy mix in the short term, the long-term focus is on expanding renewable energy capacities. Balancing immediate needs with future sustainability goals requires significant investment, innovation, and international cooperation. As India progresses, its journey offers valuable insights into managing energy transitions in rapidly developing economies.

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Why is India increasing its coal production despite renewable energy goals?

India faces rapid energy demand growth, and renewables alone cannot meet the current requirements. Coal provides a reliable and consistent energy source while the nation scales up its renewable capacity.

What are the challenges hindering the growth of renewable energy in India?

Challenges include insufficient renewable capacity, reliability issues with solar and wind, high costs of battery storage, and complexities associated with hydropower, especially in the Himalayan region.

What are India's renewable energy goals for the future?

India aims to achieve 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030, a significant increase from the current 180 GW, as part of its commitment to sustainable energy sources.

About the Author

Hey there! I'm Nikesh, a content writer at Adda247. I specialize in creating informative content focused on UPSC and State PSC exams. Join me as we unravel the complexities of these exams and turn aspirations into achievements together!

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