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November 27, 2023 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm


The global pursuit of sustainable development faces a significant challenge in the form of coal, a highly polluting yet extensively utilized energy source. Despite efforts to transition to cleaner alternatives, coal retains a prominent position in the global and Indian energy mix, necessitating a careful examination of its role, impacts, and strategies for a sustainable future.

Role of Coal in the Energy Mix

Global Perspective

  • In 2022, oil, coal, and gas constituted 30%, 27%, and 23% of the world’s total energy, while solar and wind contributed only 2.4%.
  • Despite being the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, coal provides over a third of global electricity.

India’s Energy Landscape

  • India relies on coal and oil gas for 88.4% of its primary energy consumption, with renewables contributing only 10.4%.
  • Coal-fired thermal power plants generated 74.3% of India’s electricity in FY 2022-2023.
  • Meeting increasing energy demands while aiming for net-zero by 2070 requires continued implementation of clean coal technologies.

Environmental and Social Impacts of Coal

Coal Quality and Transportation

  • Indian coal’s high fly ash content leads to efficiency issues and increased emissions.
  • Transporting unwashed coal over long distances congests transportation systems, resulting in carbon emissions.

Sulphur Dioxide Emissions

  • Indian coal has lower sulfur content, but favorable conditions disperse sulfur dioxide emissions.
  • Historical emissions created a cooling effect, masking global temperature rise.

Flue Gas Desulphurisers (FGDs)

  • Retrofitting FGDs increases specific coal consumption, lowers efficiency, and leads to higher emission intensity.
  • Implementation delays due to operational challenges and reluctance to shut down existing power plants.

Employment and Industry

  • The coal sector crucially supports industries and employment.
  • Transitioning to cleaner energy requires balancing job preservation and economic stability.

Strategies to Reduce Coal’s Impact on Sustainable Development

Efficiency Enhancement in Thermal Power Plants (TPPs)

  • Invest in R&D for increased efficiency in existing coal-fired TPPs.
  • Implement advanced technologies to reduce emissions per unit of electricity.

Promotion of Clean Coal Technologies

  • Allocate resources for the development and implementation of environmentally friendly coal technologies.
  • Prioritize technologies reducing carbon emissions and improving overall performance.

Diversification of Energy Sources

  • Accelerate renewable energy deployment to decrease coal dependence.
  • Develop policies promoting a diverse energy mix for a gradual transition.

Global Cooperation for Critical Minerals

  • Collaborate internationally for a stable supply chain of critical minerals.
  • Mitigate risks associated with import dependencies on major producers, particularly China.

Nuclear Energy Expansion

  • Increase investment in nuclear energy as a low-carbon alternative.
  • Support research for small modular nuclear reactors for enhanced efficiency and safety.

Pumped Storage Projects and Grid Integration

  • Enhance pumped storage projects for efficient integration of renewable energy.
  • Develop smart grid technologies for better management of variable energy inputs.

Washed Coal Mandate

  • Enforce regulations mandating washed coal use in TPPs located over 500 km from mines.
  • Integrate coal-washing charges into tariff determination for economic feasibility.

Incentivizing Low-Carbon Technologies

  • Incentivize projects proving the efficiency of advanced technologies like IGCC and AUSC.
  • Encourage NTPC to repurpose power plant sites for small modular nuclear reactors.

Particulate Emission Reduction

  • Prioritize reduction of particulate matter emissions in power plants.
  • Deploy cost-effective electrostatic precipitators for significant particulate emission reduction.


As the global energy landscape evolves, the clash between traditional coal-based practices and eco-friendly alternatives becomes apparent. Recognizing the challenges posed by coal, strategies for sustainable development must focus on efficiency improvements, clean technologies, energy source diversification, and global cooperation. Balancing environmental concerns, economic stability, and energy access affordability is crucial for India’s transition towards a low-carbon and sustainable future.


November 27, 2023
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
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