India’s wild energy trends raise doubts over coal’s future

New Delhi: Within the wild energy market of the world’s second-most populous nation, predictions are proving tricky. India had been projected to become a carbon-belching behemoth, fueled by thermal power plants demanding ever more coal for decades to come.

Now, some analysts are saying that may not happen.

In the last two years, coal consumption has slowed to its lowest level in two decades, even with the economy growing at a steamy 7% annual pace. Thermal power plants have been running below full capacity for years and as of June were operating at only 57% of total capacity, the lowest level ever.

India is the world’s third-largest carbon emitter and relies on coal-fired power plants to produce most of its energy. With a population of 1.3 billion and a fast-industrializing economy, those energy needs had been forecast to soar. So signs that the country’s appetite for burning more coal may be close to sated would be welcome news, given fears of a looming escalation in climate-warming carbon emissions.

“India’s future coal demand could actually be near flat,” said Tim Buckley, the Asia energy finance director for the Cleveland-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “The technology-driven changes are happening faster than predicted.”

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