I have written before that India has lots of coal–and they do. I have also written that they have had a heckuva time getting it out of the ground–and they have. Corruption, lethargy, too much regulation… all have conspired to keep much of the population in India as energy starved as they are malnourished.
As noted on Climatewire, however, “India is poised to contend with China as the globe’s top consumer of coal, with 455 power plants preparing to come online, a prominent environmental research group has concluded. The coal plants in India’s pipeline — almost 100 more than China is preparing to build — would deliver 519,396 megawatts of installed generating capacity. That is only slightly less than pending new capacity in China, which remains the undisputed king of coal consumption.” The story is based on unreleased data from the World Resource Institute–I hope the data escapes soon.
Choosing the lesser of two evils is part of modern life. The lesser of two evils is to burn coal, dirty as it may be, to bring energy to India. I hope that solar and wind power can make this period short and that hydroelectric power plays a larger role as well.
According to the WRI analysis, more than 34,000 MW of coal capacity is slated to come online in Vietnam, 30,000 MW in Turkey, and 22,000 MW in South Africa.
For these countries, albeit for different reasons, there is the opportunity for at least partial substitution in fuel sources–hydro for Vietnam, solar and wind in Turkey and all of the above for South Africa.
But for India, as with China, we’re going to have to bite the bullet and live with a generation of massive increases in the use of coal. It won’t be pretty. It will exacerbate not just conventional pollution but anthropogenic climate change (although we can hope that the particles emitted will counter the effects of some of the CO2).
But it just isn’t going to be pretty.