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India building too many coal-fired power plants, researchers claim

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India’s pipeline of planned coal-fired power plants is set to exceed its power demand and derail its climate ambitions, US researchers have claimed.

In a paper published this week in the American Geophysical Union journal Earth’s Future, researchers from the University of California found that 243 GW of coal-fired generation capacity were under development in India in mid-2016, with an additional 178 GW proposed.

If built, these plants would increase India’s coal-fired power capacity by 123 per cent, the researchers said, and would exceed the nation’s projected future power demand by 2024 if the government also went ahead with its plan to produce at least 40 per cent of its power from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.

This could result in stranded assets forced to operate well below their design utilization rates.

In addition, emissions from the planned plants, if used at a capacity factor of 65 per cent or higher, would nix India’s climate commitment to reduce its 2005 emissions level by 33-35 per cent by 2030. According to the researchers, even India’s current commitment “left no room” for other countries to emit any CO2 if the world is to keep to a 2°C temperature limit.

Steven J Davis, a co-author of the report, was quoted as saying that India's planned coal plants “will almost single-handedly jeopardize the internationally agreed-upon climate target”.