India is currently learning a hard lesson about its over-dependence on outdated, centralized coal-fired power. The country's energy needs vastly outpace the ability of its inefficient and inneffective coal-fired power plant fleet to supply power where and when its needed.
The result has been sweeping blackouts across northern and eastern India for the second straight day, leaving nearly half the country without power. The other half of the country had little to no electricity in the first place because the centralized grid has failed to ever bring it to them. If anything, these blackouts have exposed the big problem in India’s plans to build hundreds of coal fired power plants: they can’t deliver peak power.
For years India has attempted to fuel unprecedented economic growth with coal. The Indian pipeline is now full of a whopping 519 gigawatts of new coal-fired power capacity. Unfortunately for India, due to increased capital costs and the rapidly-escalating price of coal on the international market, many of these new plants are sitting idle, half-completed, or even abandoned.
But aside from the upside-down economics of coal in today’s energy market, the problem with India’s myopic pursuit of coal-fired power is that it ...