January 2, 2019 Read More →

Coal continuing to lose ground to renewables in India

Financial Times ($):

Indian power companies spent much of the past decade rushing to build coal-fired power plants in anticipation of surging electricity demand as economic growth took off.

Now, many of those projects are mired in deep financial distress and private investment in coal power has ground to a near halt. The sector has been hit by a host of problems: many plants have struggled to secure fuel supplies, and to clinch deals to sell their power to cash-strapped state distribution companies.

But the biggest driver of long-term uncertainty for the industry is one that few anticipated 10 years ago: an explosive take-off in the renewable power sector, as India joins the global push to tackle climate change by shifting towards green energy.

Soon after taking power in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government set a target of increasing India’s renewable energy capacity by 2022 to 175 gigawatts, equivalent to 40 per cent of the country’s total power capacity at the time of the announcement. 

This shift in the industry’s economics means that coal power — once one of the hottest prospects for Indian industrialists — is now a space where most fear to tread. “You’d have to be quite courageous to invest in coal at this point,” said Navroz Dubash of New Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research. “The speed with which the story has reversed is quite astonishing.” 

Increasingly, large private-sector coal power producers are looking at renewable projects when they build new capacity. Adani Power, for example, has invested more than $600m in a solar plant in Tamil Nadu — a southern state with abundant sunshine. There is no longer an economic case for the highest-cost coal plants in inland areas of the country’s south and west, which are forced to rely on coal expensively transported over long distances from the northeastern coalfields, said Tim Buckley at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

More ($): India’s renewable rush puts coal on the back burner

Comments are closed.