New Delhi: Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi has said that the contribution of thermal sources of energy, including coal, may decline in terms of percentage of the total energy consumption, but in absolute terms coal consumption will increase and peak in a decade or so before declining. Speaking at the ET Energy Leadership Summit on Friday, Joshi said, "Contribution of thermal power to the overall energy mix may come down as percentage in the total energy consumption, but in absolute terms, it will increase and peak in a decade or so before witnessing a decline trend and its eventual phasing out in the next few decades thereafter."
The statement is significant because it comes in the backdrop of an intensifying chorus on the global stage for India to announce its net zero targets. However, resisting pressure from the global community, the BJP government at the Centre has time and again declared that coal will continue to contribute majorly to India's energy mix.
Joshi pointed out that India's per capita consumption of energy is low in comparison to several developed nations of the world and added that India has also followed up on the commitments made by the country under the Paris accord, unlike several other nations. "We have one of the largest coal reserves across globe. A large section of our population aspires to have equal opportunities to grow. Our industries need fuel and the nation has to achieve economic parity before applying brakes to the momentum. Therefore, India's energy transition should be one prioritising the growth and not sacrificing it. What we need at the moment is growth acceleration and coal is the means to achieve it," said Joshi.
"We are set to achieve the target of reducing 35 percent of carbon intensity by 2030. While the country is poised to meet its climate target, it's also important to remember that despite our eagerness for a quick switchover, the shift from traditional fuel to renewable or alternative source of energy should be gradual for several reasons," said the minister.
In 2020, India's energy demand was 880 MT of oil equivalent, coal being its major source of energy at 44 percent, followed by oil at 25 percent, natural gas at 6 percent, and renewable at 3 percent, said Joshi. "It is, therefore, inconceivable at the moment to begin questioning the future of coal. India still has a window for using coal and it must ensure maximum production and optimum consumption during this time," he added.
"There is no doubt that coal will continue to remain a major contributor in India's energy basket. While we will be adding renewable capacity as per our commitments, let us keep in mind that India's energy requirements are growing and as we intend to provide quality and assured energy to our people, energy consumption per capita per annum is about to go up," the minister said.