Study: India won’t be able to meet Paris Climate Agreement commitments due to expanding coal power plants

India’s coal plant plans conflict with climate commitments

Proposed plants could jeopardize target of avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius of mean global warming

Mundra Thermal Power Plant, Mundra, Gujarat, India. The nine-unit Mundra thermal power plant is one of the largest coal-fired plants in the world.

AMERICAN GEOPHYSICAL UNION WASHINGTON, DC — India will not be able to meet its Paris climate agreement commitments in the coming years if it carries through with plans to build nearly 370 coal-fired power plants, a new study finds.

“India is facing a dilemma of its own making,” said Steve Davis, associate professor of Earth system science at the University of California Irvine and coauthor of a new study published today in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. “The country has vowed to curtail its use of fossil fuels in electricity generation, but it has also put itself on a path to building hundreds of coal-burning power plants to feed its growing industrial economy.”

According to Davis and his colleagues, India has pledged to the international community to reduce its emissions intensity–the amount of carbon dioxide released per unit of gross domestic product–by as much as 35 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, and to increase the percentage of renewable energy in its power grids. The construction of 65 gigawatts worth of coal-burning generation with an additional 178 gigawatts in the planning stages would make it nearly impossible for India to meet those climate promises, the researchers say.

Further, by developing all of the planned coal-fired capacity, India would increase the share of fossil fuels in its energy budget by 123 percent. If the country also met their goal to produce at least 40 percent of their power from non-fossil sources in 2030, the total power being generated would greatly exceed its own projected future electricity demand, according to the new study.

“In looking closely at all of India’s active coal plant proposals, we found they are already incompatible with the country’s international climate commitments and are simply unneeded,” said Christine Shearer, a senior researcher with CoalSwarm, a research institute in San Francisco, California and lead author of the new study. “These plants therefore risk either locking out the country’s renewable electricity goals or becoming stranded assets operating well below optimal rates and leading to financial losses.”

“India’s Paris pledges might be met if they built these plants and only ran them 40 percent of the time, but that’d be a colossal waste of money, and once built there’d be huge incentives to run the plants more despite their contrary climate goals,” Davis said.

India relies heavily on coal; 70 percent of the country’s power comes from plants burning the fuel. Because of its historically low cost and accessibility (India has large domestic coal reserves), it is seen by the country as an aid in its quest to become a manufacturing and economic power and a way to provide electricity to the roughly 300 million people in the country who don’t have it.

But the researchers stress there are significant downsides to the fossil fuel habit. In addition to spewing harmful soot and other types of air pollution into the atmosphere, coal-burning power plants are the largest carbon dioxide source on the planet, making up 41 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in 2015.

Choices individual countries make with regard to their energy mix have a global impact, according to the study’s authors.

“India’s proposed coal plants will almost single-handedly jeopardize the internationally agreed-upon climate target of avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius of mean global warming,” Davis said.

The researchers are not convinced coal is the way to go for India, pointing to the example set by the only country in the world with a larger population, China. India’s neighbor to the north started building too many coal plants at the height of its economic boom. Now it’s having to suspend hundreds of unneeded plants that were under development, Shearer said.

Further, India’s own draft National Energy Plan, released in December 2016, states no further coal power capacity beyond that currently under construction will be needed until at least 2027–although it remains unclear what the country will do about its many proposed coal plants. “India should take a hard look at these coal proposals and avoid the mistakes of China,” Shearer said.

Turning the ship around will be a challenge for the world’s largest democracy. Davis said one of the problems may be communication.

“The people going to the international meetings to participate in climate negotiations aren’t the same one that are permitting new power plants in the country,” he said. “Maybe this paper will help bring that conflict out into the open.”

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96 thoughts on “Study: India won’t be able to meet Paris Climate Agreement commitments due to expanding coal power plants

  1. WHAT!!! Griff has been telling us for months that India has given up on coal power.
    Don’t tell me that Griff has been lying to us.

    • Oh come on Mark, We all know that the words Griff and Lies can’t be used together in the same sentence…
      Unless you use the third word qualifier “Constantly”

    • It seems that many are hearing what they want to hear instead of listening to what is actually being said

      “The country has vowed to curtail its use of fossil fuels in electricity generation, but …

      Firstly, India did not take a “vow” on anything. This is stupid language being used to imply a degree of engagement which is not there is the false hope that it will apply pressure to the other party. In reality, India signed a non binding “agreement”. What it actually said is that it would only apply its plan if developed gave it 2m5 TRILLION dollars of funding to do it.

      They know that will not happen so they are going ahead.

      The only “dilemma” is in the head of associate professorSteve Davis,

      • According to the article, they said they’d cut their CO2 per unit of GDP. The “researchers” apparently have no clue that more power generation / more electricity drives up GDP. How much more do you think those 300 million Indians currently without electricity will produce once they get electricity. (Though it kind of give away my age, “Power to the People!”)

    • The answer is Mark that this and previous studies show that it makes no sense for the planned coal plant to get built…

      and it won’t get built.

      The 175 GW of renewables by 2022 is well under way and the price for new solar power is getting really low.

      “If the country also met their goal to produce at least 40 percent of their power from non-fossil sources in 2030, the total power being generated would greatly exceed its own projected future electricity demand, according to the new study.”

      Quite right. so some part of their planned power will get ditched – the coal part. Because the renewable part is getting built, cheaply

      • Peter here’s some figures for latest Indian solar

        https://cleantechnica.com/2017/04/26/750-megawatt-solar-tender-india-massively-oversubscribed/

        “Recently, the 750-megawatt auction for Rewa solar power park in Madhya Pradesh closed at a levelized tariff of Rs 3.30/kWh. This was quickly topped by the another auction held for a 250-megawatt block in the Kadapa solar power park in Andhra Pradesh. The tender closed at Rs 3.15/kWh tariff for a period of 25 years.”

        I’ll post coal plant figures later, if I can find any

        Mark, if you are accusing me of telling lies, I think you need to take a piece of information I have given and post the contradiction.

        I am not aware you have ever done this?

      • Griff, most of the time all I need to do is repost your sources, since most of them contradict what you claim.

    • India agreed to cut CO2 so long as the economy wasn’t harmed and Obama’s promised $100 billion/year climate fund paid for everything.

      somewhere along the line all the people donating to the $100 billion/year climate fund forgot they talked about $100 billion EACH year, and are now talking about $100 billion some time in the future. All India has to do is cut its CO2 today, and for sure it will get its share of the $100 billion, sometime in the future, any day now, trust us. About the same time that fusion power is perfected.

      • That’s strange! They’ve taken the $100 Billion from the taxpayers now so they must have ready! Lol!

      • They’ve taken the $100 Billion

        Horse shit. Why do you make such stupid , ill-informed claims.

        Only a fraction of the promised money has been put forward and most of that came from re-attributing other foreign aid .

    • More likely, they will learn from their Chinese neighbors and loudly blame the West for wrecking the planet while continuing to make bettering the lot of their own vast population their actual number one priority. They’ll probably also ask when they might expect to see their share of the (largely nonexistent) climate aid money promised in Paris.

      Let me make it clear. I have no problem with the actions of the Chinese and Indians. They are doing exactly what any sensible country would do facing the same (huge) problems.

    • India knows very well it’s all smoke and mirrors with the “climate crises”, and if the westerners are deluded about this and there’s any chance for India to gain both financial and moral support, while never being forced to live up to any “obligations”, why not play along and make a fool of the guilt-ridden first world countries?

      Anyone who claims to be shocked by this, must either be very ignorant about the facts behind the Paris “Agreement” or a great hypocrite or both.

  2. To the surprize of absolutely no one who has been paying attention to India’s power generation policies.

  3. Methinks India has conned the green con artists! The Mark has conned The Team! Bravo, India! Bravo!

    • Indeed, yes! Well done, India! And now India can also help us discovering the truth about the planet-killing coal burning. Because if this is so dangerous as claimed by among others “Death-Train Hansen”, in some years the global warming will run amok. Unless, of course, the whole disaster scenario is pushed forward another 15-20 years.

  4. The fact that China over estimated how quickly it’s economy would grow and thus doesn’t need as many power plants as they thought they would a few years ago, isn’t evidence that China is giving up on coal.
    It’s merely evidence that the central planners goofed, and are now correcting.
    (Which I should congratulate them for, it’s rare for central planners to admit that they have goofed. In the old Soviet Union days, they would have continued to build the plants and then moth balled them when done.)

      • China cut back
        ===========
        likely the Chinese themselves. much easier to pledge 30% cuts after you have built 50% more than you need. much cheaper to shut down a surplus coal plant than one that is running the economy.

      • The plant that they choose to idle will probably be one of the older, more polluting models.
        Nothing like getting credit for something you were planning on doing already.

  5. One final point, the soot problem with coal was solved over 40 years ago. If these researchers don’t know that they are incompetent. If they do know that, then they are liars.

  6. Yes, that is quite a dilemma; on the one hand, you can have a thriving, prosperous economy along with the guilt of not keeping your “promises”, and on the other you get to have a faltering economy but you get to feel good and can shame others (like the US) for not keeping theirs. That is a problem. What on earth will they do? Maybe they should ask some poor people.

  7. “The researchers are not convinced coal is the way to go for India”—yes, by all means India, make the same mistakes the USA does and listen to researcher who very often seem clueless when it comes to the real world.

    “only ran them 40 percent of the time, but that’d be a colossal waste of money”—that’s never a problem with wind or solar. In fact, wind gets paid to not produce. So why is it a problem with coal?

  8. “In looking closely at all of India’s active coal plant proposals, we found they are already incompatible with the country’s international climate commitments and are simply unneeded,” said Christine Shearer, a senior researcher with CoalSwarm, a research institute in San Francisco, California and lead author of the new study. “These plants therefore risk either locking out the country’s renewable electricity goals or becoming stranded assets operating well below optimal rates and leading to financial losses.”

    CoalSwarm is a biased anti-coal organization. Why didn’t the story mention that – because the AGU has been captured by the econuts? And who gave these fools the right to say what is needed in India? She has a PhD in Sociology yet claims to know how these non-existent plants will operate at a loss.

    http://coalswarm.org/about-coalswarm/our-team/

    What a load of crap.

    • So if India currently cannot supply electricity to “the roughly 300 million people in the country who don’t have it”, how exactly has COALSWARM determined India’s current coal fired electrical production facilities to be “unneeded”? Seems to me that the “need” exceeds the supply, and the demand exists.

      Perhaps it’s merely that the cloistered buffoons of COALSWARM have determined that the 300 million should be content to accept their lot in life.

      As has been noted: “The difference between a developer and an environmentalist, is that the environmentalists already has his cabin in the woods.”

      “Yep, we’ve made it up the cliff… now pull up the ladder so nobody else can challenge us.”

  9. Paragraph 9: “…[coal] is seen by the country as an aid in its quest to become a manufacturing and economic power and a way to provide electricity to the roughly 300 million people in the country who don’t have it.”

    Paragraph 14: “Further, India’s own draft National Energy Plan, released in December 2016, states no further coal power capacity beyond that currently under construction will be needed until at least 2027…”

    So…are the plants currently under construction going to meet the needs of the 300 million, or did some wise person writing the National Energy Plan just decide those needs don’t matter?

  10. I don’t think that coal plants are responsible for 41 % of all CO2 emissions, but only those emissions from power plants. There are a LOT of automobiles on this planet you know. These alarmists always behave as if there are no new no-carbon technologies close at hand. Electric cars and molten salt nuclear reactors will make these predictions of the world’s energy future look totally non-sensical. India is also developing their own version of a molten salt (Thorium) reactor
    and have always planned extensive nuclear power capacities.

  11. “India’s proposed coal plants will almost single-handedly jeopardize the internationally agreed-upon climate target of avoiding 1.5 degrees Celsius of mean global warming,” Davis said.

    Based on climate models that are laughably inaccurate and totally incorrect and cannot show the impact of India’s coal burning on atmospheric temperatures – Davis has the gall to demand that India’s economy should be crippled? Perhaps Davis should explain to the poor in India the basis on which he thinks they should remain poor.

  12. I have a theory. Hem hem hem …

    They moved the goalposts to 1.5°C because they knew that the old goal of 2°C was never going to happen.

    • Of course that was Obama’s lie when he mandated us to reduce emissions while the deal was they do nothing for many years. Then the complicit media kept saying Obama made a great deal.
      Only the uneducated Dems really thought it was a great deal.

    • “based on a non-existent scare.”

      Yes, the alarmists want us to spend TRILLIONS of dollars for a non-existent problem.

      One would think that if you demand trillions, you should have a solid reason for such a request.

  13. India’s “commiittment” in the Paris Agreement [treaty!] is actually LESS than a business as usual decline in carbon dioxide intensity. They never intended to do anything at all.

  14. Only nuclear can replace our current energy requirements provided by fossil fuels unless we massively degrade our lifestyles. That won’t happen. Convincing developing countries they are stuck in the bottom cycle of lifestyle evolution won’t work. Convincing developed countries to downscale for “the good of the planet” (when it’s highly questionable) won’t work either. There’s a point of diminishing returns throwing money at wind and solar and the outcome will always be the same….. wind and solar are not sustainable (apologies for using that term).

  15. India alone has a whole US-population of people without electrical service (approx 300 million, US approx 312 million). . That means no lights, no refrigeration, no business…..

    It is inhumane to leave them without access to power — the UN recognizes this.

    They will build whatever system they can to supply that need for their people….if they have coal, they will burn it for power.

    If they can develop more affordable nuclear, they will build that.

    They will not be swayed by Western environmentalism over the needs of their people.

  16. Gosh, all these darn countries acting in their own best interests.

    Here’s the thing – if you’ve got cheap affordable power sources, people WILL eventually use them – especially if there’s an advantage in it.

  17. To put all earth’s energy consumption in perspective, all of humanity currently uses the equivalent of about 3 Cubic Miles of Oil equivalent energy. The cubic mile of oil (CMO) is a unit of energy. A CMO/yr is about 5.084 TW continuous, making current world energy use around 15 TW. The volume occupied by one trillion U.S. gallons is about one cubic mile. Hard to visualize which is why the CMO was created, and then broken down by fuel supply as to what percentage of each type of energy, (nuclear, NG, renewables for e.g.) All oil consumption is currently about 1.1 CM while coal is about .75 CM, and NG is about .75 CMO and growing.
    That is 2.6 CMO, out of a total of about 3 CMO, which all other forms of energy are the .4 CMO.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubic_mile_of_oil A good easy read to understanding of the CMO, which is the equivalent of the energy contained in 1 cubic mile of oil. Have a quick boo at this, because it really puts in perspective how reliant we have been and will continue to be, on the use of fossil fuels. And why it will be so hard to transition to any other fuel source, since there is currently no alternative. It is also a good thing that we have not yet reached peak oil, and probably won’t until at least 2030, and if all non traditional oil is exploited, then peak oil is still probably 2050 or even further out depending on price of oil, price to extract and therefore how much economic fossil fuels are available going forward. We have time to transition to something else, although 33 years is nothing in the scheme of time.

    The Wiki article is based upon 2006-2008 figures so will be a hair smaller on the total energy equivalent for 2017 and renewables will be a fraction higher due to the build out of mainly wind and solar the last 10 years. But in the scheme of things, renewables are very small fraction on a total global energy consumption basis. Which is why there is no chance that renewables will not make much of a dent in getting off fossil fuels anytime soon. And why we are very lucky that CO2 from fossil fuel burning has little impact on warming of the planet, because we are not giving up fossil fuel anytime soon. As evidenced by this article on India’s increased use of coal, and China’s manipulation of data regarding use of coal.

    Which is why when fossil fuels go up in price some day (probably sooner than later) it will really take a hit to the economy in taking a lot of money out of the economy for basic energy. And is why I am long oil since the latest price decrease had more to do with politics (punishing Russia and Iran the last 3 years) than it did a real over supply. We will hit peak oil some day, and with an increasing hungry planet for energy, this is a future problem that should not be ignored now, but plan for an eventual transition to electricity via HVDC power lines delivering high capacity electricity at a distance without a lot of loss. Advanced Nuclear or Fusion will probably be that base load energy we require, and future carbon based renewable fuels can be synthesized out of CO2 itself. Carbon based renewable fuels will be with us forever, because its power density is so hard to achieve with any other known source, especially for things like jet engines.

    $60 Trillion in new spending on traditional renewables will not replace fossil fuels, especially for air, or ground or sea transport. Especially given that a solar farm has a lifespan of 20 years and diminishing output while running out of useful production life. And same for a wind farm. Hydro, both large and small, is maybe a different story since is firm power when water is available, has a high power density and basic infrastructure once built will last a 100 years, if not in perpetuity. $100 Billion per year welfare payments to the third world wouldn’t actually even do much, even if it were spent honestly. There are smart renewables, and then there is dumb renewables. Let’s put a brake on dumb renewables, and let it pay its own way without subsidies or some plan to rob 11 advanced western countries for 200 countries to piss away down some 3rd world black hole with the Paris Climate Agreement. It’s time to call a spade a spade.

    • Last paragraph should read ‘$40 Trillion in new spending’ not $60 Trillion as per WUWT article on World Bank advocating massive $40T investment in renewables…

    • Overly simplistic analysis. Electricity efficiency depends on the modes of generation, governed by variants on Carnot. CCGT 61% because uses two different Carnots: Brayton then Rankine. USC coal is at most 45% because just Rankine. Home heating depends on furnace efficiency. You provide a fan to blow away uninsulated heat extracted exhaust, you can reach net 95% (my Wisconsin farm propane furnace). Without fan but with insulated exhaust chimney, you can reach 85% (my new Chicago townhome nat gas furnace). Old ordinary home heating designs were ~60%. Just combustion heat with enough left over to carry hot exhaust up an uninsulated stack.

      • I think the whole point is to simplify all energy production into something that the average citizen could comprehend. Which here they use an oil equivalent that they convert all other energy sources into. And then use a cubic mile for the volume of equivalent energy density.

        I think the conversion factors are reasonable for the purpose of the illustration. Maybe not exact, but enough to make the point how much present energy comes from fossil fuels and how difficult it will be to replace.

    • “this is a future problem that should not be ignored now”
      ??? An (alleged) future problem is not something we need to concern ourselves with. The future will deal with it.

    • “plan for an eventual transition to electricity via HVDC power lines delivering high capacity electricity at a distance without a lot of loss.”

      you will note then with approval the network of HVDC interconnectors already going up across Europe!

      • Hydro Quebec already delivers a large part of their generation from multiple very large hydro projects near James Bay to New York city via long distance HVDC lines as does Manitoba Hydro from the Nelson River near Hudson Bay down to Winnipeg near the US border, where it is then fed into multiple 500 KVA AC lines that service multiple loads to different local and export AC grids to USA.

        HVDC is part of the long term solution to efficient electricity long distance transport. It would greatly assist in supplying and time shifting demand side consumption when HVDC lines are east-west, since could effectively deliver electricity 2-3 time zones east or west to peak consumption times from point of generation.

  18. India has always made it clear that their own development priorities will take preference over hypocritical western-environmentalist bleating about global warming and carbon dioxide. Quite right too.

  19. Oh it is painful to call a study what doesn’t even need a back of an envelope to work it out . The PR is so full of fluff that you can hardly read such twaddle. This is what sociologists do these days. So India could operate the new coal fleet at 40% to meet their promises, but this would be economically wasteful…give this girl the 2017 Nobel Prize for economics. I was hesitating to joke about this in case I gave the Nobel Commietee an idea. Cracker Jack (TM) prizes-in-their-caramel-corn futures went up over 2000% after Gore, Patchy and OPOTUS got their Nobbles.

  20. If you plot life expectancy against per capita energy consumption, you find many developing countries have followed almost identical courses – at <500kg oil equivalent consumption per annum your life expectancy at birth is around 50; at over 1500kg oil equivalent you have a good chance of making 75. About half of India's population has access to <500kgoe. Do you really think it better to try to save the whole world from some putative disaster than giving 500 million people 25 years more life? Or do you prefer gas chambers?

  21. Bangladesh PM Hasina has already told Al Gore to “shove it” — more or less.
    India has been more subtle.
    Electricity all day every day is good.

  22. Never mind, all of India’s increase in coal consumption is being counterbalanced by South Australia and Victoria, “progressive” parts of Australia. /sarc.

  23. India won’t be able to will not meet Paris Climate Agreement commitments due to expanding coal power plants realism”

    There, fixed.

  24. The planned new power plants simply are not going to get built.

    Current coal plants are only operating at 550% capacity and coal demand is weak…
    http://www.livemint.com/Industry/HQ11vy1v8UCMbg4OiuLKbJ/Coal-India-FY18-production-target-cut-on-weak-demand.html

    “The key problem is that Indian power plants are currently operating at 55% of their installed capacity, according to Partha S. Bhattacharyya, former chairman of CIL.

    It appears that the country is focusing on renewable energy at the cost of sub-optimal capacity utilization of thermal power plants, he said.”

    and solar has for some time been cheaper than coal in India
    http://www.sciencealert.com/india-says-the-cost-of-solar-power-is-now-cheaper-than-coal

    “the cost of providing solar power in India is becoming increasingly affordable – to the point where the country’s energy minister, Piyush Goyal, now says that solar power is a more cost-effective option than the old fossil-fuel staple, coal.”

    See also:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/21/india-renewable-energy-paris-climate-summit-target

    “The Indian government has forecast that it will exceed the renewable energy targets set in Paris last year by nearly half and three years ahead of schedule.

    A draft 10-year energy blueprint published this week predicts that 57% of India’s total electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027. The Paris climate accord target was 40% by 2030.

    The forecast reflects an increase in private sector investment in Indian renewable energy projects over the past year, according to analysts.

    The draft national electricity plan also indicated that no new coal-fired power stations were likely to be required to meet Indian energy needs until at least 2027”

    • It really is amazing how Griff takes press releases from activist organizations as if they were unchangeable Gospel.

      • Propaganda is all he’s got, and I think people here are getting bored with him. It’s not like he’s here to learn… or capable of it, really. Correct him and he’ll just rinse and repeat, and post another press release. You can’t wake someone who’s only pretending to sleep.

      • Hey, I think I also quoted the Indian government

        go check their websites…

        find for example they intend to have 60GW of wind installed by 2022 and are currently rolling out 6 GW a year, with 32 GW already installed… see that their 175GW renewable by 2022 project is fully funded…

  25. Except that they aren’t “commitments”
    They are “intentions”
    India is a non-Annex country and does not have any emission reduction obligations under UNFCCC/Kyoto

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