Why India is Turning to Coal

By Dr. Frank Clemente  Energy Facts Weekly

“India has more people without adequate access to energy than any country in the world.” — National Resources Forum, 2008 [1]

 The extent of energy deprivation in India is difficult for most Americans to comprehend. Almost 40 percent of the population on the subcontinent lacks access to electricity and has no linkage whatsoever to the  benefits such access brings to an improved quality of life. For tens of millions of other Indians, availability of power is extremely limited, e.g. they have electricity for only a few hours a day.

The World Bank has stated: “India needs much more power in a short time frame to continue its economic development” and has concluded that the bulk of that electricity will come from coal. [2]

Graph:  India Faces Rampant Growth

The Power of Coal

To meet projected demand, and replace projected incremental coal-based electricity generation, India would have to do one of the following:

  • Obtain more than 14 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas;
  • Build 250 nuclear power plants, or;
  • Construct the equivalent of 450 Hoover Dams.


“India still must rely on (coal) to meet growing demand…Gas-based power is not a viable alternative …not enough natural gas is available …and the power it generates is too expensive…. Wind power still has limited reliability and its higher cost …makes it unsustainable for meeting large scale demand.”  — The World Bank
Graph: The Scale of Demand for Electricity in India
“Removal of poverty is the greater immediate imperative than global warming.”  — P. Ghosh, India’s Secretary of Environment [4]

In 2010, India will obtain over 560 billion kWh of electricity from coal.  That’s 65 percent of its total supply. [5]

Graph: Coal is India's Only Energy Advantage
“Coal is expected to be the mainstay of power generation in the years to come.” — India’s 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012) [6]

In India the increasing level of coal -based generation has been the prime mover in more people living better and living longer. [8]

Graph:  Coals Track Record in India
By 2030, the 1.5 billion people in India will depend more on coal for energy than any country in the world – except for the 1.5 billion people in China.


[1] Natural Resources Forum Volume 30 Issue 1: 14 Mar 2006 © 2009 United Nations
[2] http://www.thaindian.com/: 7/19/2008
[3] http://www.iea.org/
[4] http://www.gulf-times.com: 5/18/2006
[5] http://www.iea.org/
[6] http://energysummit.yale.edu/assets/Bckgrd_US-India_EPS_2009.pdf
[7] BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2009
[8] http://www.worldbank.org/


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