India enters an unnecessary coal plant permitting spree in 2023

In 2023, India’s power companies and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s Expert Appraisal Committee have ushered in a new coal permitting spree, the latest briefing from the Global Energy Monitor (GEM) and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) reveals.

Three non-captive coal plant expansions (3.9 gigawatts, or GW) received permits in the first five months of 2023 alone, up from zero the year before, as well as seven other coal plant proposals (7.6 GW) also moving forward in the permitting process by receiving Terms of Reference, and two additional coal plants (2.9 GW) appeared under consideration for the first time this year.

Uptick in India’s Proposed Coal Plant Capacity (2022-2023)

Source: Global Coal Plant Tracker (Jan. 2023 release & June 1, 2023 revisions); excludes construction, shelved, and cancelled capacity; only includes on-grid/non-captive proposals

Further key findings include:

● India has an estimated 65.3 GW of proposed, on-grid coal capacity under active development:
30.4 GW under construction and 34.9 GW in pre-construction (14.4 GW permitted, 11.8 GW pre-permit, and 8.8 GW announced). This capacity represents nearly a third of the country’s operational on-grid, non-export coal capacity (212.5 GW).
● Based on five-year projections in India’s latest National Electricity Plan (NEP), more than 8 GW of non-captive coal-fired power plant capacity in active construction is unnecessary, and all 34.9 GW of the pre-construction capacity is also not needed.
● Under the NEP’s ten-year coal projections, there is no need for any new projects to enter the pre-construction pipeline. If all pre-construction coal capacity was to come online, and 2.1 GW was to retire as projected in the NEP, installed on-grid coal capacity would reach 275 GW, far exceeding the NEP’s projected requirement of 259.6 GW in FY2032 under the base case (65.3 + 212.5 – 2.1 GW).
● Under more nuanced demand projections, the case to temper new coal power development is even clearer.
● New coal power projects are unnecessary to meet demand and would come with significantly higher socio-economic and environmental costs than clean energy.

Flora Champenois, Global Energy Monitor (GEM); Sunil Dahiya, Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA)

Partners: Global Energy Monitor (GEM)