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Decarbonisation of India’s Power Sector

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 19, Nov 2021
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement of enhanced targets for climate action by India, particularly for achieving net-zero emissions by 2070, has highlighted the importance of long-term planning for decarbonising the economy. 

What precautions needs to be taken to achieve net-zero emission goal by 2070?

  • By 2070, there will be many changes in technology, environmental conditions, and the economy. 
  • The planning horizon of about 50 years will need to be broken up into shorter periods so that new knowledge about emerging technologies can be incorporated into plans. 
  • In addition, plans will need to be monitored so that the course can be corrected to respond to any unforeseen problems. Five years, as the UK has used, seems like a reasonable “Goldilocks ideal.”
  • For setting interim targets and monitoring progress, an autonomous and technically credible agency, like the Climate Change Committee (CCC) in the UK, should be set up.
  • The agency would provide independent advice to the government on setting and meeting both long-term and interim (five-year) targets that are ambitious but also achievable. It would also monitor progress and annually report and suggest mid-course corrections.

Decarbonisation of Power Sector

  • Decarbonisation is the process of reducing the amount of carbon, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), sent into the atmosphere.
  • The shorter-term targets announced by the PM to be reached by 2030 refer mostly to the power sector. This is appropriate because it is the biggest source of GHG emissions and also the easiest one to decarbonise.
  • In order to decarbonise the power sector, it would be best to have a single emissions-related objective so that an optimal strategy can be developed to achieve the objective at the lowest cost.
  • Reducing emission intensity is a good overarching objective; increased use of RE or non-fossil-fuel generation is a means to that end.
  • Setting permissible emission intensity in terms of grammes of carbon dioxide equivalent per kWh of electricity sold, applied to all load-serving entities, would be a good option for targets in the power sector.
  • There is a profusion of separate targets for almost every resource used to generate electricity. Such an approach reduces the flexibility of distribution companies to select resources to meet their loads, resulting in a non-optimal resource mix, and a higher cost of electricity.


The use of five-year interim targets for permissible emission intensity and the establishment of an autonomous and credible agency to advise the government on targets and policies and to monitor progress will greatly facilitate an effective, economic, and smooth transition to decarbonisation of the power sector first, and the Indian economy later by 2070.