In what could be an embarrassment for India at the ongoing Copenhagen climate change negotiations, government data reveal that the rate at which Indian power plants emit carbon dioxide (CO2), which has been on a decline for many years, has increased.
The latest emission figures of the ‘CO2 baseline database’, published by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), reveal that power plants in India emitted 0.82 tonnes of CO2 for every MWhr (mega watt hour — 1,000 units) of electricity generated in the last financial year, around 4 per cent more than the previous year.
CO2 is a major greenhouse gas and alone contributes to over 60 per cent of the overall global warming.
Coal-based power plants account for over 60 per cent of the total carbon emissions from India. The country’s power plants emit over 540 million tonnes of CO2 annually.
India has proposed a 20-25 per cent cut in its emission intensity by 2025 and the government has already chalked out plans for investing around Rs 74,000 crore within the next five years to cut down carbon emissions from its power sector.
This investment would be directed at a host of measures to cut down energy intensity of the domestic economy including increasing efficiency of the existing power plants and introduction of clean coal technologies. These initiatives would result in the reduction of 98.5 mt of CO2 emission over the entire period, according to the Bureau of Energy Efficiency and the power ministry.
Indian economy is believed to be one of the least energy intensive globally. The energy-GDP (gross domestic product) elasticity index for the country, a measure of the rise in energy demand for every 1 per cent increase in GDP, has dipped to 0.8 currently, compared to over 1 in the early 1990s, according to the Planning Commission.
CEA maintains that the increased rate of CO2 emission from power plants is mainly due to less nuclear and hydro power generation in the last financial year.
While India’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions at 1.02 tonnes remain well below the world average of 4.25 tonnes, a bulk of its power generation comes from coal-based stations.
Another issue in cutting down future emissions is the low efficiency of older plants. Currently, over 5,000 Mw of power capacity in India has a low capacity utilisation of less than 5 per cent. While these units are being retired in the current Plan period, the government plans to retire another 10,000 Mw capacity in the Twelfth Plan (2012-17).