The transformation of India’s electricity market continues to deliver, as shown this month by the cancellation of 13.7 gigawatts of proposed coal-fired power plants, an admission that 8.6 gigawatts of operating coal is already non-viable, and the parallel move of ever-decreasing solar costs helped along by the country’s record low solar tariffs.
Keeping an eye on the goings-on in India has been an interesting experience over the last few years, given that the country has not only set itself increasingly lofty expectations and targets, but seems for all intents and purposes as if it is actively going to reach its aims. The country has definitely appeared to be stuck at a crossroads — not knowing whether to commit wholly to renewable energy, or to keep a foot in the fossil fuel camp as well. Late last year India had plans to build more than 300 gigawatts (GW) of new coal capacity by 2030 — a move which was found to be almost entirely unnecessary and wasteful, considering that 94% of the planned new coal capacity would probably lay idle in and past 2022. Conversely, the country has been working hard to decrease its coal imports, and in January this year coal imports declined by 21.7%.
Just this month, the Indian state of Gujarat announced the cancellation of a proposed 4 GW coal ultra-mega power project due to what the government said was an existing surplus and a desire to transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.
The good news just keeps on coming, as well, according to reports from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), a research firm that has long been analyzing the world’s fossil fuel industry. Tim Buckley, its Director, wrote earlier this month that India has in March alone already cancelled 13.7 GW of proposed coal-fired power plants across the country, and admitted that 8.6 GW, or around $9 billion worth of operating import-coal-fired power plants are potentially already beyond their use-by date.
Combine this with record low solar tariff prices in India and the global decrease of solar costs, and Buckley believes that the transformation of India’s electricity sector is already underway.
“India solar tariffs have been in freefall for months,” Buckley explained earlier this month. “A new 250MW solar tender in Rajasthan at the Bhadla Phase IV solar park this month was won at a record low Rs2.62/kWh, 12 percent below the previous record low tariff awarded across 750MW of solar just three months ago at Rs2.97/kWh.”
“The Bhalda Phase record lasted two days, with a more recent 500MW Indian solar auction coming in at Rs2.44/kWh, 7 percent below Bhalda Phase.”
The news plays an important part in several much larger stories, as well. Not only do these moves “speak as well to a worldwide transition in progress,” as Buckley suggests, but India’s concerted efforts to step away from its reliance upon coal-fired electricity generation puts yet another black mark against the Adani Group’s planned Carmichael coal mine in north-east Australia — a move which has already been indefinitely deferred due to what some environmental analysts are calling “blackmail” on the part of Adani. A report this week by Lock the Gate Alliance reveals that it would cost at least AUD$1.5 billion “to rehabilitate the Adani Carmichael coal mine in Central Queensland.”
“There is a massive risk that Australian taxpayers will be left to cover the costs of part or all of the rehabilitation of the Adani coal mine,” said Carmel Flint, spokesperson with Lock the Gate Alliance. “We estimate that the financial assurance required for the first five years of the full 60Mtpa mine plan should be at least $1.5 billion in order to protect taxpayers from financial risks.”
On top of that, a report published by international poverty organization Oxfam reveals that more coal plants such as the Carmichael coal mine only lead to ever-more poverty.
“The Federal Government’s failure to curb Australia’s carbon pollution and obstinate push to expand the nation’s coal exports continues despite the overwhelming evidence that coal and climate change is putting communities in Australia and around the world at increasing risk of harm,” said Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke.
Australian politicians, and others beholden to the global fossil fuel industry, will continue to keep their heads stuck firmly in the sand as the world continues to change around them, surfacing only to spout the same old lines that might have been relevant 30 years ago, but have long since fossilized and become irrelevant in a world which is quickly speeding along an electricity transformation.