India Behind Schedule in Decarbonising Energy Infrastructure 

By Outlook Planet Desk May 15, 2023

Even as India is effectively moving towards energy transition, it remains among the three countries most dependent on fossil fuels 

India Behind Schedule in Decarbonising Energy Infrastructure 
Increasing the use of renewable energy while allowing coal use to decline will lower carbon emissions. DepositPhotos

When it comes to decarbonising its energy infrastructure, India, the current G20 host nation, is severely behind schedule. After South Africa, it has the second-highest reliance on coal. Accordingly, the transformation is not yet progressing quickly enough for a pathway aligned with 1.5C, according to the fourth annual Global Electricity Review published by energy think tank Ember, even though India receives 9% of its electricity from solar and wind sources. 

The G20 country with the largest share of clean electricity is Brazil, which will host the summit the following year. Brazil produced 89% of its electricity from green sources in 2022, including 63% hydropower, 12% wind energy, and 3% solar energy.

“Brazil is way ahead of India in securing a clean electricity system,” said Dave Jones, Ember’s Head of Data Insights. Jones added, “G20 hosts can both learn from each others’ successes. India is stepping up as a solar king, with generation growing by 45 times in the last decade to reach 5% of its power in 2022. Brazil had a headstart with a strong base in hydroelectric power, but they haven’t rested on their laurels, with a truly impressive growth in wind power, which has grown by 16 times in the last decade and reached 12% of its power in 2022.” 

Even until 2022, 13 of the G20 nations, including India, were obtaining more than half of their electricity from fossil fuels. With practically all of its electricity coming from gas and oil, Saudi Arabia stands alone. The next three countries most dependent on fossil fuels, primarily coal, are South Africa (86%), Indonesia (82%), and India (77%). 

Only five G20 countries—China (+34%, +1374 TWh), India (+35%, +357 TWh), Indonesia (+52%, +65 TWh), Russia (+31%, +47 TWh), and Turkey (+50%, +37 TWh)—have witnessed an increase in coal consumption in absolute terms since 2015. China and India have been able to cut the percentage share of coal in both countries over that time as they concentrate on expanding wind and solar to keep up with demand. China used coal to produce 70% of its electricity in 2015; by 2022, that percentage will drop to 61%. India saw a smaller reduction, going from 76% coal-based energy in 2015 to 74% in 2022. However, Turkey, Russia, and Indonesia have all witnessed considerable increase in their use of coal power. 

The analysis highlights that wind and solar have reduced the share of coal power in G20 countries since the Paris Agreement. 

The United Kingdom has experienced the G20's steepest reduction in coal power, cutting production by 93% since the signing of the Paris Agreement, from 23% of electricity in 2015 to just 2% in 2022. While the United States and Germany lowered their coal power by around a third during the same time period, Italy cut its coal power by half. Even Australia, which is heavily reliant on coal, has cut its proportion of coal power from 64% in 2015 to 47% in 2022. Japan stands out among the G20 advanced economies because it has not yet reduced its reliance on coal, which still accounts for about a third of its electricity.

“Power sector decarbonisation is the single biggest action needed to cut emissions,” said Malgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, senior analyst at Ember. “G20 countries are mostly already moving towards a cleaner electricity system but this now needs to be accelerated. The cheapest and fastest way to achieve that will be through the rapid roll out of proven technologies–wind and solar–not through gambling on unproven technologies like fossil fuels with carbon capture. G7 members have agreed to predominantly decarbonise their power sectors by 2035, and making explicit their commitments on the speed of deployment of solar and offshore wind. There have not yet been similar discussions in the G20, and given that it is the most critical barrier to keeping to 1.5 degrees, it needs to be top of the agenda.” 

In the seven years from 2015 to 2022, clean power accounted for 52% of the increase in electricity demand in Asia, which is double the 26% accomplished in the seven years prior. Peaking emissions is the first stage; how quickly fossil fuels are phased out after that will rely on the steps that governments take to hasten the adoption of wind and solar energy.