India needs to use coal, address emissions issue: WCA

London, Jan 13 (IANS) Noting that coal will continue to be vital to economic life, the World Coal Association has said that while India needs both thermal and renewable energy, for the world to transit to a low carbon future it should address the issue of carbon dioxide (Co2) emissions.

“For a country like India, it’s not a choice between coal and renewables — both are needed and both will play a big role,” the World Coal Association (WCA) said in a report titled Asia: Coal’s future released earlier this week.

“With the use of coal projected to continue to grow in Asia over the coming decades, a low emission technology pathway for coal is essential,” it said.

“The key approach for the world to transition to a low carbon future is to address the Co2 emissions. Coal is not the problem, emissions are,” said WCA Chief Executive and the author of the report Benjamin Sporton.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that India will soon replace China as the world’s largest coal importer.

The report said India will continue to mainly depend on coal to meet its energy needs as the country moves to double the size of its economy to $5 trillion in a “matter of years”.

“As it has in the past, coal will act as the default energy source for electrification for India,” it said.

Sporton cited the IEA to say that 237 million people in India still have no access to electricity, while the country’s residential power consumption lags well behind the world’s average and is ten times lower than that of developed countries.

“About 67 per cent of India’s population rely on wood or animal dung to cook,” he added.

The WCA said that across Asia coal is the preferred fuel due to low costs and easy accessibility.

Noting that “high efficiency low emissions coal is the answer” for countries working on their commitments to reduce the impact of climate change, the report cited the example of China which has a five-year plan to reduce all emissions from coal-fired power and other industrial uses.

“China is taking important steps to close down smaller, inefficient power stations but it is also building large, modern and more efficient (HELE) coal-fired power plants — new regulations effectively ban subcritical (non-HELE) coal technology,” it said.

“HELE coal technology is important not only for its emission reduction benefits, but also because it is a vital first step towards carbon capture and storage (CCS) — a suite of technologies that can capture 90 per cent of Co2 emissions and store them underground, preventing them from entering the atmosphere,” it added.