Amidst the clamor surrounding the intensive use of coal in China and India, one may not realize that these nations have some of the world’s largest renewable energy installations.
In fact, I hail from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu which is often compared to Scandinavia for its large number of wind farms. Accounting for 25 percent of the country’s wind capacity, the state has the largest share of such generating assets in a nation of 1.3 billion people.
Yet even Tamil Nadu relies heavily on coal to meet its electricity demands, with power emergencies and blackouts being the order of the day anytime there are shortages of the fuel. It is much the same across the country, where 70 percent of the electricity comes from coal.
The much-touted wind farms are of little help in such emergencies. Yes, they generate electricity, but it is highly insignificant, only 4.6 billion units compared to coal’s 92 billion units. Despite wind accounting for 10 percent of total installed capacity in the country’s power sector, its total contribution to generation is less than three percent. Wind farms simply cannot produce on-demand electricity, and certainly not in the amount needed by large cities.
“Yet again, power cuts have become the norm in Tamil Nadu; there is already a huge impact on people’s lives,” said the former chief minister of the state.
Last month, Tamil Nadu’s chief minister pleaded for more coal as supply was critically low: “The Chief Minister M K Stalin wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding his intervention to ensure the supply of 72,000 (million tonnes) of coal per day.”