India's Coal Power Share Falls Below 50 Percent First Time Since 1960s


In the initial quarter of 2024, coal's contribution to India's overall power generation capacity fell below 50 percent for the first time since the 1960s. According to the recent POWERup quarterly report by IEEFA, renewable energy sources comprised 71.5 percent of the unprecedented 13,669 megawatts (MW) of power generation capacity added by India during this period from January to March.

The decrease in coal's portion of power generation capacity reflects a worldwide pattern, as evidenced by the record-low demand for coal in G7 nations in 2023, reaching levels not witnessed since 1900. In a bid to expedite this transition, G7 nations recently vowed to eliminate all unmitigated coal power generation by 2035, building upon their previous commitment to cease the construction of new coal-fired power plants. Furthermore, at the United Nations COP28 climate change conference in December of the preceding year, global leaders achieved a landmark accord to shift away from fossil fuels that contribute to climate change and to triple the global capacity for renewable energy by 2030.

According to the report, a record 69 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy tenders were issued in India in the fiscal year (FY) 2023-24, surpassing the central government's target of 50 GW per year. "After a downturn from 2019 to 2022 due to supply-chain issues and global price spikes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the market has rebounded and gone from strength to strength,” Vibhuti Garg, Director, South Asia, IEEFA, said.

India has risen to third place in the world's solar power generation rankings, trailing only China and the US. Ranked ninth in 2015, India has now overtaken Japan, which, along with fellow G7 member Germany, has a persistently high demand for coal.  Solar remained the world's fastest-growing electricity source for the 19th consecutive year in 2023, adding more than twice as much new electricity worldwide as coal. India witnessed the world's fourth-largest increase in solar generation in 2023 (+18 terawatt hour or TWh), behind China (+156 TWh), the United States (+33 TWh), and Brazil (+22 TWh).

From 2015 to 2023, solar power's share of electricity generation in India skyrocketed from 0.5 percent to 5.8 percent. Based on the IEA's "Net Zero Emissions" scenario, solar energy is projected to constitute 22 percent of global electricity generation by 2030. Considering that nearly half of India's annual carbon dioxide emissions (1.18 gigatonnes in 2023) stem from electricity generation, expediting the shift to cleaner energy sources is imperative for the nation to achieve its developmental objectives and climate targets.

According to the IEA, it's crucial to triple global renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency to cap the average temperature increase at 1.5 degrees Celsius, a target set in 2015 to mitigate further exacerbation of climate impacts. India stands out as one of the select countries committed to tripling renewable capacity by 2030.