Coal in Death spiral as India cancels 14 gigs, and Solar prices Plummet

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

China and India have knocked the United States off the top spot of the index of best places to invest in renewables. Analysts cite the impact of Trump’s policies in favor of coal and petroleum.

Meanwhile, as Trump talks up a return of coal in the US, global coal markets have been shaken to the core by the Indian government’s decision to cancel planned 14 gigawatts of coal plants. They took the decision because solar power has fallen in price so dramatically that the coal plants were no longer competitive.

India’s plans for so many dirty coal plants had raised alarms among climate activists, who suggested that they would make it impossible for New Delhi to meet its emissions reduction goals under the Paris climate treaty. That consideration has now been removed.

Solar’s share of India’s electricity output increased 80 percent last year.. India added 10 gigawatts of solar in 2016. It has a goal of 100 gigawatts from solar by 2022.

The renewable energy sector in India already accounts for 60,000 jobs, and will add a similar number by 2022.

India is able to generate electricity by solar panels for 4.4 cents a kilowatt hour without any subsidy, undercutting not only coal but all other sources of electricity generation. Analysts are wondering whether at these prices India will ever build another coal plant.

Typical of the massive scale of the Indian projects is a 750 megawatt project in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, one of the world’s largest solar facilities at a single site. It will increase India’s installed solar capacity by 7.5% and will double the installed capacity of Madhya Pradesh. One plant. It will avoid one million tons of toxic carbon dioxide emissions every year. And such solar facilities can often be built in as little as 18 months.

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5 Responses

  1. The recent announcement Carrier is shipping jobs to Mexico despite what the great negotiator told us is a foretaste of glory lost for the coal miners Trump promised would be going back to the mines after he was elected.

  2. I am under the distinct impression that India still plan to build several hundred gigawatts worth of new coal burners.

    However, especially in India, there is often a wide gap between plans and realization. Coal burners require a heavy investment in distribution lines to reach rural India; solar panels do not.

    • Glad you mentioned that point. Solar power is more efficient since it can be generated at the point of use. There is an estimated loss of about 8 to 14% due to transmission. And, of course, centralized power requires infrastructure and more maintenance, especially in areas with extreme weather.

    • For information, here’s a Bloomberg article, from which I quote, on the subject:

      “Power from solar panels now half the cost of a new coal plant”
      link to bloomberg.com

      I wonder what effect this will have on the Australian coal mines.

  3. The evolving economics of renewables in power generation is the key to success or failure in combating climate change. Will the steady drop in price for solar, wind and other renewables happen fast enough for us to lower emissions in time? Or has the window of opportunity already closed?

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