India’s Coal Consumption and Emissions Hit Record Highs in Q1

Amid a heatwave and reduced hydropower generation, India boosted its coal consumption to a record high in the first quarter of the year, which also drove up emissions from the power sector to an all-time high. India, which still relies on coal for over 70% of its electricity generation, saw its coal-fired power generation jump by 9.6% year-over-year to 338 terawatt hours (TWh) in the first quarter of 2024, according to data from think tank Ember cited by Reuters columnist Gavin Maguire.
At the same time, total power sector emissions also rose by a similar percentage to hit a record 316 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and equivalent gases, per the data.

More coal-fired units were fired up at the start of the year in the country, amid a prolonged heatwave with above-normal temperatures which pushed electricity consumption higher. Power demand continued to rise with the expanding economic growth, too.

Utilities in India have also tried to limit the possibility of power outages ahead of the general election which is being held between the middle of April and early June. India raised the share of coal in its power generation in April as sharply lower hydropower output has threatened blackouts as summer approaches. The share of coal in India’s power generation jumped to 77% in the first week of April, rising by around 2 percentage points compared to the same period of 2023, per data from the Grid Controller of India cited by Bloomberg. The higher coal use in the country has been compensating for much lower power generation from hydro resources as India braces for the summer months and the general elections.

Hydropower production slumped by 11% in March compared to the same month of 2023, according to the data. Due to lower hydropower generation, India expects its biggest shortfall of electricity in June in 14 years, a government source told Reuters on Thursday.