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India sees fall in CO2 emissions for the first time in four decades

As per the study, in March the Indian carbon dioxide emissions fell by 15% and have likely to be fallen by 30% in April.

May 13, 2020 14:31 IST
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India has observed a fall in carbon emissions for the first time in four decades. It must be noted though that the fall is not just the result of nationwide lockdown to combat COVID-19.

As per the analysis, the fall in the electricity use and competition from the renewables have weakened the demand for fossil fuels even before the COVID-19 hit. However, the lockdown announced in March 2020 resulted in the country’s emission growth to go in reverse.

As per the study, in March the Indian carbon dioxide emissions fell by 15% and have likely to be fallen by 30% in April.

A decrease in demand for coal:

As per the daily data from the Indian national grid, coal-fired power generation has seen a downfall of 15% in March and 31% in the initial three weeks of April. But it is safe to assume that even before India’s COVID-19 lockdown, the demand for coal was weakening.

In the latest study, it has been observed that in the fiscal year ending in March 2020, coal deliveries have been down by around 2%. This must be considered as a small but significant reduction if observed against the trend. While there has been an increase in thermal power generation, which is 7.5% a year set over the previous decade.

Oil consumption sees a reduction in demand growth:

The demand for oil consumption in India has been slowing since 2019. The trend in the lowering demand for oil can also be because of the COVID-19 lockdown that has impacted the transport industry. Oil consumption was noted to be down by 18% year-on-year in March 2020.

Increase in the renewable supply of energy:

With the falling demand of both coal and oil, renewable energy has seen an increase over the year and has maintained since the COVID-19 pandemic. The scenario that renewable energy sources have maintained even in the lockdown has not been limited only to India.

As per the International Energy Agency (IEA), at the end of April, the use of coal was down 8% in the first quarter of the year across the world. And in contrast to that solar and wind power saw an increased demand internationally.

One of the reasons that the coal has taken the brunt of the fall in electricity demand has been because it costs more to run on a daily basis while operating costs of solar panels or wind tribune have been low which gives them priority in the electricity grids.

Will the situation last long?

The analysts have warned that the decline in fossil fuel use may not last long. There is a risk, that when the pandemic subsides, the countries will attempt to kick-start their economies.

The United States has already started relaxing its environmental regulations and there has been a fear that other countries might follow up the same.

India can follow a different path:

Experts have observed that there are certain reasons that India might follow a different path:

•   The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has brought the financial troubles in the Indian coal sector to a head. The government has finalised a relief package that can top 900bn rupees.

•   The Indian government has also been talking about supporting renewable energy as part of the recovery.

•   Renewable sources have an economic edge in India and offer far cheaper electricity than coal.

•   As per the report, the new solar capacity can cost as little Rs. 2.55 per kilowatt-hour, while the average cost of coal-generated electricity has been Rs. 3.38 per hour.

•   Investing in renewable energy will also be consistent with India’s National Clean Air Programme that was launched in 2019.

•   The clean air and clear skies will hopefully increase public pressure on the Indian government to clean up the power sector and attain clean air.

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