The Indian government is preparing to shut down more than a dozen coal-burning power plants on Tuesday in the face of a rising carbon dioxide emissions and a sharp drop in electricity demand.
India has more than 8,000 coal-powered plants in operation, a figure that could reach almost 8,500 by the end of the year, according to government data.
That’s the equivalent of a quarter of the world’s coal capacity, according the International Energy Agency.
The shutdowns are expected to lead to higher electricity prices for households and businesses, as well as a drop in demand for power.
The government has estimated that it could shut down about 3,300 power plants, which could generate about 6,400 gigawatt hours of electricity.
That would be enough to power a country of about 3.4 million people.
It would be a significant setback for the nation’s coal industry, which relies on coal-power plants to provide about one-third of the country’s electricity.
India’s coal-driven power industry was estimated to produce around 3,500 gigawatts of electricity in 2021, according a report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency last year.
The industry is facing pressure from a government crackdown on pollution from coal-generated power plants that has also resulted in an increase in coal-related pollution in recent years.
The closure of the coal plants, a step that has been delayed for months, would help ease that pressure and help to stabilise the sector, said Ashish Gopalakrishnan, the chief executive officer of Power Grid India Pvt.
Ltd., which owns about 1,500 power plants in 11 states.
The country’s coal supply is critical to the countrys energy mix, and the coal sector is a big part of that, Gopalac said.
But the government’s decision to shut some of India’s most polluting coal plants is a major setback, he said.
The coal-based power sector is India’s biggest industrial sector, accounting for more than one-fifth of the nations economy.
Its decline over the last three years has seen its share of the economy shrink from more than 20% to around 10%.
India’s power sector has suffered badly as the country grapples with a spike in carbon dioxide pollution, which has resulted in severe air pollution.
India has been struggling with pollution and a surge in suicides among people who live near coal-generating plants.
India is one of the biggest coal-producing nations in the world, with nearly a third of its electricity being produced by coal-fueled power plants.
It accounts for about one quarter of global coal consumption, and about one in five of its annual emissions.
India already faces a massive energy shortage due to its high-emissions target for 2030, which aims to cut its emissions by more than 30% below 2005 levels by 2050.
India aims to meet the target by 2050, but it has been slow to meet it.