With the world opening up, energy demand is surging. Most parts of the world are facing an energy crisis. This new crisis is like the one which hasn’t been seen since the 1970s. There has been a 600% increase in European gas prices so far and in 2021, the highest in 13 years.
In China elevators have been turned off, store’s opening hours shortened, factories reduced their operating days and power consumption, and some provinces have experienced outright blackouts. Coal-fired stations had an average of four days worth of stock of fuel at the end of September in India. We are facing one of a kind energy crisis.
Why are We Facing the Energy Crisis?
1. Post pandemic demand for energy supply surged which plummeted during the pandemic. Leading to an increase in the price of coal and gas in Europe and Asia. This disturbed the supply of coal and gas. Because of this many countries like India have shortened their imports.
India’s import of coal dropped by 30% in August-September, compared to the previous 7 months.
2. European energy markets jumped to records, signalling the supply shortage will get worse. Uneven and unseasonal rainfall in some parts of India and China led to flooding and clogging in factories and mines, halting operations.
The top coal-producing province of China, Shinaxi has been hit by massive floods temporarily
shutting down the supplies.
3. Many coal power plants around the world did not maintain the required stock of coal with them, causing a shortage with a sudden price increase.
As of 4th October, 135 coal power plants in India had critical or supercritical stocks of coal left.
4. Many countries in the world are trying to adopt cleaner resources of energy and reduce their
dependence on coal for generating energy. But with the sudden increase in demand for energy,
renewable resources couldn’t back off.
To reduce dependency on coal, China started moving toward adopting cleaner energy resources and made all the coal power plants meet their green development goal but with increased demand and power cut-offs, China was forced to kick start the production of coal again.
The same thing happened with Europe, due to a sudden surge in the price of coal and power
cuts that made them open their closed coal power plants.
Dependency on Coal
With this sudden energy crisis, one thing is very clear- our big dependency on coal. We are so dependent on coal that just a little price hike can lead to a shortage of coal. Coal is the largest source of electricity in the world. China and India are the largest and second-largest producers and importers of coal respectively still they are amidst the energy crisis. India is the 3rd largest emitter of carbon after China and the US and still relies heavily on coal. And, coal is responsible for 40% of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels. Besides CO2, burning coal produces pollutants like mercury, sulfur dioxide, which is linked to acid rains, and particulate matter, which causes respiratory illness. Coal-fired plants generate 72% of India’s electricity, also coal-consuming industrial sectors like steel are rapidly increasing, making Coal an intransigent part of the Indian economy. As of September 2021, thermal power-a power generated from burning coal, gas and petroleum- compromised 60% of India’s installed capacity is in power.
European nations are leading their way in renewable sources. For example, Germany drew 44% of its energy from renewable sources in the first half. But for India, the figure was a lot less.
We are still using the fuel that is strangling our environment to death.
Is It Possible for India to Go 100% Renewable?
No, in the current situation, India cannot fully replace coal with any other renewable energy. Because-
1. Coal is the dirtiest fuel but it also is the cheapest and most convenient fuel to use and developing countries like India often low-cost fuel sources over renewable sources which cost hefty money to their economy.
2. 62% of energy in India is obtained from coal and only 38% of the energy that we use today is renewable, so it is quite apparent that we can’t quit coal in a flash.
3. Lots of coal-fired plants are owned by the state or union government of India and the coal sector is a major source of revenue for them.
4. Millions of people in India rely on coal not only for energy but also for their livelihood. The coal sector is one of the largest, employing about 7 million people in India. According to Quartz India, ” India needs nearly 30 times more solar jobs to phase out coal job”
5. Researchers pointed out that if India slowly and successfully replaces coal with other renewable sources of energy then after 30-40 years India would be able to achieve it’s long-awaited goal of 100% renewable energy.
However, issues related to land acquisition, funding and policy continue to come in the way of these plans. Experts have said that it was unlikely that India would achieve these targets. Hence, the reliance on coal is not going to go down soon.
A developing country like India has to slowly step back from coal and move forward with renewable sources of energy.
But India can get rid of coal and maybe it will be good for India not only environmentally but also economically to wash off their hands from coal. The coal sector has been under financial distress for years due to bad loans and debts. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Energy identified 34 thermal coal power plants as stranded assets. Today India’s coal power plants are working on half of their capacity. And also to avoid a shortage of electricity. In the future, India should brace itself by producing renewable resources.