India needs to undertake detailed studies, on an ongoing basis, to get more clarity on the pathways required for decarbonising the Power sector, a paper by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has suggested.

Emissions from the electricity sector is 1,240 MtCO2 eq (equivalent), which amounts to 39.5 per cent of India’s total emissions in 2019. The power sector is the single largest emitter of CO2 in India. The average emission per unit of electricity in FY20 is estimated to be 0.668 kgCO2 per kWh.

The paper, India’s Journey to Net Zero: A Conceptual Framework for Analysis, examines the transition journey for each of the major greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting sectors in India. It delineates a pathway to the peaking of emissions and subsequent decline through the lens of delinking growth from an increase in carbon emissions.

“For India to achieve net zero, full decarbonisation of the electricity sector would have to take place. This would require decoupling of increase in electricity production and consumption from carbon emissions from the electricity sector. This would be achieved by the generation of electricity from non-fossil fuel sources,” the paper said.

India’s per capita electricity consumption would then increase, yet its carbon emissions per unit of electricity would decline. The CO2 emission intensity would decline with an increasing share of electricity generation without the use of fossil fuels, it added.

It pointed out that the requirement is to generate alternative scenarios of demand growth and undertake modelling exercises to determine timelines and cost implications for the installation of RE and large-scale grid storage for reaching the inflection point when reliable supply for additional demand would not need new thermal capacity.

“Feasible pace of creating new nuclear capacity. Trajectory of cost reduction to make life cycle cost comparable to RE plus storage. Feasible options for transition of Coal India and thermal power companies, NTPC and others, into green fossil fuel free energy companies,” it added.

The paper assumes that India’s per capita income and per capita energy consumption would reach current EU levels at some point of time in the future when India catches up and becomes a developed country. Net zero would be possible only with the decoupling growth from increase in carbon emissions. India’s per capita CO2 emissions would rise, reach a peak, remain steady at a plateau, and then decline.

The time to reach the peak would depend on the complete penetration of carbon free technologies and would be different for different sectors ranging from a few years to decades.

Further, it also suggested that studies and pilot projects should be undertaken with stakeholder consultation for repurposing of land of exhausted coal mines for productive use and revenue generation.

The costs of just transition away from coal such as loss of jobs, royalties to the states needs to be analysed. Feasibility of meeting these partially or fully with repurposing of land and revenue generation from other economic activities.