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India to become ‘renewables superpower’ but coal still needed, says energy minister



India’s energy minister Piyush Goyal has said his country will become a renewables superpower, with solar power in particular set for a big boost. However, he said the output of coal-fired power plants will also grow, with the minister dismissing climate change and environmental protection discourse as ‘western homilies’.

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In an interview with the Guardian, Goyal renewed the pledge of India’s prime minister to bring solar-generated electricity to the 400 million Indians who currently without energy, while also building the world’s largest floating solar array.

He said, “Our commitment to the people of India is that we should rapidly expand this [energy] sector, reach out to every home, and make sure we can do a diesel-generator free-India in our five years. We will be a renewables superpower”, adding that the government intends to invest $100 billion (£62bn) in clean energy over five years.

Recently, the World Bank also announced a $775 million (£452m) investment in Indian renewable energy projects

However, despite the renewable push, a doubling of the tax on coal and promises to close down old polluting power plants, the fuel that has often come under scrutiny for its high carbon emissions is still going to play a crucial role in India’s energy future.

Goyal said, “Coal also would have to expand in a very rapid way. I would wish [the proportion of renewable energy] was better but my fear is that, even if I would want to do more, I may not be able to fund. Coal I would be able to fund unlimited.”

When confronted with environmental and climate issues that would derive from a growing expansion of coal-fired power plants, Goyal said western nations should think for themselves.

Western countries have gone through their development cycle and enjoyed the fruits of ruining the environment over many years and are now giving us homilies and pontificating on responsibilities to the environment”, he said.

I think they need to look inward. They need to recognise the cost to the world’s environment that they have caused – and continue to cause for that matter – and set their house in order before sermonising to developing countries.

“Of course we aren’t one of the largest polluters by any stretch of the imagination on a per capita basis.”​​

However, India has planned to put measures and finance in place to help people affected by climate change, for instance to farmers affected by changing monsoon patterns.

Photo: John S. Quarterman via Flickr

Further reading:

Osborne and Hague to meet new Indian PM in trade mission

World Bank to invest $775m in India’s renewable energy

India plans to build ‘world’s largest’ floating solar power plant

India’s renewable energy ministry plans to boost solar power output

India’s new prime minister says every home will have solar power by 2019