Clean coal, not solar, is the silver bullet for India’s carbon emission reduction

The power sector across the globe is going through a transition to reduce its carbon footprint. Environmentalists have targeted coal as one of the chief villains of global warming. It is true that coal is the dirtiest fuel with the highest carbon emission coefficient, but it presently plays a vital role in electricity generation worldwide. Coal-fired power plants currently produce 41% of global electricity and are responsible for 46% of the world’s carbon emissions.

India is the third largest carbon emitter in the world after US and China. The government of India has an ambitious plan to add 175 GW of power from renewable energy sources out of which 100 GW is expected to come from solar by 2022.

However, a new possibility emerges when one considers the fact that Indian coal-fired power plants are some of the most inefficient and polluting ones in the world. This is because around 80% of these plants are still using obsolete subcritical technology. Experts and policy-makers have suggested that the environmental harm caused by burning coal can be minimised by adopting high efficiency low emission (HELE) technologies such as supercritical and ultra-supercritical combustion technologies.

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