Developing Countries & Global Climate Change: Electric Power Options in India

The electric power sector in India is characterized by low per capita energy use, rapid growth in demand, heavy losses in transmission and distribution, and tariffs well below average costs. Coal dominates usage, which combined with hydropower represents 85 percent of generated power. The power sector is responsible for half of India’s carbon dioxide emissions, which were 92 million tons in 1995. Even with the prospect of market and industrial reforms, the ‘business-as-usual’ path for India in 2015 increases both generating capacity and carbon dioxide emissions by around 150 percent over 1995 levels. But the scenarios modeled in this study show that growth in emissions can be reduced to only 60 percent greater than 1995 if progressive sustainable development policies are implemented.

What are the drivers that will influence future technology choices in India:

  • The ability of India’s power producers to fuel-switch and lower carbon dioxide emissions is heavily dependent on the availability and cost of alternative fuels (especially natural gas). In the scenario simulating stricter local environmental controls, this restriction steers decision-makers to sulfur control equipment and does not necessarily lead to reductions in coal use. On the other hand, striving to attain sustainable development goals can reduce costs and capacity needs, and achieve the most dramatic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Market reforms can lower costs by 11 percent and carbon emissions by 7 percent through a reduction in the need to build more power plants through increased supply efficiency and earlier availability of new technologies.
  • More widespread adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency measures could also reduce carbon emissions by 23 percent and sulfur dioxide emissions by 60 percent, by reducing demand for power by around 15 percent.

Developing Countries and Global Climate Change: Electric Power Choices in India is the third in a series examining the electric power sectors in developing countries, including four other case studies of Korea, China, Brazil, and Argentina. The reports findings are based on a lifecycle cost analysis of several possible alternatives to current projections for expanding the power system.