Policy & Politics

Published on March 4th, 2016 | by Saurabh Mahapatra


India Doubles Tax On Coal Again

March 4th, 2016 by  

Broadly along expected lines, India has yet again increased the tax on coal mined or imported in the country.

On 29 February, the Indian Finance Minister tabled a budget proposal to double the tax on coal from Rs 200 (~US$3) to Rs 400 (~US$6) per tonne. This was the third instance, since it was introduced in July 2010, that the tax was doubled. Officially called the Clean Energy Cess, the tax was introduced by the United Progressive Alliance government and made effective from 1 July 2010.

The tax has now been renamed as the Clean Environment Cess. The fund that collects the revenue has also been renamed from the National Clean Energy Fund to the National Clean Environment Fund. The Government intends to use the revenue not just for renewable energy projects but also for environmental projects such as wildlife conservation and, very likely, afforestation and river cleaning projects.

Coal India Limited, the world’s largest coal mining company, is expected to significantly increase the quantity of coal mined every year and, thus, the revenue from Clean Environment Cess is also expected to increase sharply. Until December 2014 more than Rs 16,000 crore (US$2.4 billion) had been raised through the cess.

The Ministry of Finance has already announced a hike in budget allocation for Project Tiger – a wildlife conservation project – from the National Clean Environment Fund. With increased cess, the government has allocated Rs 300 crore (US$45 million), up from (US$25 million).

A large portion of the planned receipts from the cess are expected to be used for solar power projects. As part of the  target to have 100 GW solar power capacity installed by March 2022, the government plans to install around 40 GW capacity each through ultra mega solar power projects and rooftop solar power projects. These projects are expected to receive significant investment through the National Clean Environment Fund.

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About the Author

A young solar enthusiast from India keeping an eye on all regulatory, policy and market updates from one of the fastest emerging solar power markets in the world.

  • K.Periasamy

    Taxing Coal is welcome !
    But it is not good to invest in grid connected Solar PV.

    India has peak load demand between 6.00 PM to 11.00 PM. For meetig this demand anyway we need to have other power plants like Nuclear / Coal / Hydel. Hence, it is redundant ( and obviously foolish !) to have grid connected Solar power in India.

    What we need is nuclear power.

    I have sent my Book titled : Energy Options for India” to all the 26 Cabinet Ministers in India by Courier. So far I have received just one acknowledgement and that is from PM’s secretary.

    Hope atleast someone reads and understands the obvious mistake in promoting solar power !

    • Sreehari Variar

      We have 300 million people who doesn’t have access to power. So its not redundant and hence obviously not foolish to add installed capacity. The demand status quo is not there to make new installation redundant if its not at the peak of demand. Demand can be easily increased by just connecting more villages online which I suppose they are doing.

      Then there’s this synergy of the ecosystem being set up and secondary effects like growth in hitech manufacturing etc you need to bring in to the picture when you a government.

      • K.Periasamy

        Do you know what is Peak Load Demand, and it is in the night for India ? Sun does not shine at this time. Storing electricity in MWHrs is not practical except pumped storage schemes. We have limited scope for this pumped storage schemes.

        Hence, anyway to meet this peak demand ( and for the 300 million people also) we need to have Coal / Nuclear / Hydel power. Even for effectively utilizing the pumped storage schemes, it is better to have Coal / Nuclear which have near 90% Availability factor and 80% PLF.

        Then where is the need for Solar ?

        In case of countries like Germany, the Peak load is somewhere in the midday when Sun comes in handy. In these countries it makes sense to go for Solar. In those countries, the PLF of Solar is far less due to their geographical location. That is a different matter !

        • neroden

          Batteries are practical.

          • K.Periasamy

            Is it ?
            What is the Battery size required to save 1000 MWHr for 18 Hrs ?
            What is the life of the Battery if you cycle it everyday with just 50% Discharge ?
            What is the life of the Battery if you cycle it everyday with 90% discharge ?

        • Calamity_Jean

          The wind blows all night. India is also installing a lot of wind power.

          • K.Periasamy

            Is it ? Does it blow all days ?
            Tanilnadu has the highest installed capacity of about 7500 MW with the best Wind Mill sites in India.

            What was the daily average generation between October-14 and April-15 ? Any idea ?

          • Calamity_Jean

            “Does it blow all days ?”

            What’s that supposed to mean? You were just complaining that solar power in India comes at the wrong time because the peak of demand is in the evening. Now you seem to be complaining that wind power won’t meet daytime demand. The obvious answer is that it doesn’t matter if wind blows all day in India, because solar photovoltaics could cover the need for power.

            “Tanilnadu has the highest installed capacity of about 7500 MW…”

            Clearly they need more. It’s coming. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are India’s wind farms.

            “What was the daily average generation between October-14 and April-15 ?”

            Obviously, I don’t know, I don’t live there. Judging from this: https://resbrokerasia.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/india-wind-atlas.jpg and this: http://mnre.gov.in/file-manager/UserFiles/Presentations-NWM-09012014/Gomathinaygam.pdf the potential appears to be quite good.

          • K.Periasamy

            Let me clarify in detail. Since you do not live here, you are not aware of the complete data.

            1) Wind blows in India during certain months only. The best Windmill sites which have overall PLF of about 20% lie in Tamilnadu State(South India). Even here, the wind blows only between May to September. In this period also it varies very erratically. Between any consequent day, the variation in average generation is more than 50%. within any 24 hours, the variation is as high as 80% !
            In the remaining 7 months, it is near zero.
            So, in case of Wind, it is 24 hours problem for 7 months and in the “available” 5 months also, it is totally unreliable. The grid managers practically do not count the wind mills for their planning ! TN has 7500 MW Wind Mills out of the total installed capacity of 25,000 MW and the State struggles to meet the peak demand of about 15000 MW. The reason is obvious !
            2) In case of Solar, it is 16 hours problem throughout the year ! It is a simple matter to understand. The Solar PV also has only about 20% PLF.

            For these problem periods ( 7 months in a year & 16 hours all through the year), what do we do ?

            When we necessarily have to have Coal / Nuclear power for this problem periods, and these power plants operate with an availability factor of 90% and PLF of 80%, then where is the need for having Wind / Solar ?

          • Calamity_Jean

            “Wind blows in India during certain months only. The best Windmill sites which have overall PLF of about 20% lie in Tamilnadu State(South India). Even here, the wind blows only between May to September.”

            “In the remaining 7 months, it is near zero.”

            That didn’t sound right to me, and we are conveniently in one of those “remaining 7 months”, so I did some research. Using Google maps, I found the name of a city near the center of Tamil Nadu, called Dindigul. Then I used a weather-prediction website to find out what the wind was expected to be for the next ten days. It was ten to fifteen kilometres per hour, equivalent to five to ten miles per hour. OK, that’s just barely not enough to operate a wind farm, although the new super-tall wind turbines might be able to make it work. And it does seem to be considerably windier at night, so if you mainly need power at night a wind farm may be worthwhile.

            But that’s only one place, are there any windier places? So I searched out a wind power map for Tamil Nadu, http://wind-power.industry-focus.net/tamil-nadu-wind-energy-map.html . By comparing it to the Google map, I found the name of a windier city, Tirunelveli. And the weather-prediction website says that over the next ten days the wind in Tirunelveli will be fifteen to twenty-five km/h, or ten to fifteen mph. Now that’s a decent windspeed, and there are likely to be windier places in the countryside away from the city.

            Obviously I don’t have the ability to research all of the “remaining 7 months”, but it does appear that there is wind all year in Tamil Nadu.

          • K.Periasamy


            See this chart for the actual wind power production variation over the 12 months period in Tamilnadu !

          • Bob_Wallace

            At what altitude?

            Many parts of the US have inadequate onshore wind at 80 meters but good resources at 140 meters. Before one writes off wind in India it is necessary to look at higher hub heights.

          • Bob_Wallace

            According to this paper “the Indian Wind Atlas 2010 published by C-WET, the annual average wind power densities in most of the potential assessed sites of India is between 200 – 250 Watts/m2 at a hub height level of 50 meter above ground level (MAGL). ” Moving from a 50 meter hub height to 80 meters would increase the resource strength by 109%.


          • K.Periasamy

            A per this C-WET data, ” If the installation is done at a

            hub height level of 80 MAGL instead of 50

            MAGL, the estimate of wind power potential

            increases by a whopping 109.22% to

            102.79 GW assuming all other parameters

            to be same. This is because of higher wind

            speeds at higher hub heights.”

            Please note, this 109% increase is the increase in potential for making the sites viable for setting up Wind power ( of course with the regular incentives offered for windmills) with 80 m high towers compared to towers with 50m height.

            The actual increase in availability and power generation for a given location with 120 m tower instead of 50 m tower is about 15 to 20%. That is all. And that will be at extra capital cost with “hybrid” towers. That is, the tower bottom will be Lattice structure and the top will be polygon.

          • Bob_Wallace

            You have a wind speed map for 140 meter and higher hub heights in India?
            There are a number of ways to reach 140 meters and higher. Mexico is using segmented concrete towers.

          • K.Periasamy

            I do not have for 140m. It may be another 15% improvement.
            That is, a wind mill of rating 1000 KW @ 50m height generating 100 KW in the low wind time, may be generating 115 KW with 80m and 140 KW with 140m tower.

            With regard to availability of 140m tower, we are already having 120 m tower with hybrid construction( Lattice in the bottom and Polygon at the top). There is no dearth of such technologies ! It is only the cost – benefit ratio, which matters, especially with high interest rates prevailing in India.

        • Ronald Brakels

          K. Periasamy, solar power will be used as part of India’s generation mix simply because of its low cost. It is already cheaper than coal in some locations and its cost is continuing to decline. The cost of solar plus dispatchable generation is simply cheaper than nuclear power and this is the case whether or not there is a carbon price.

          You may be of the opinion that there is something special about India that will enable it to produce new nuclear electricity at a cost that is competitive with the steadily declining cost of renewables, unlike France which is switching away from reliance upon nuclear power, but I doubt that that is the case.

          • K.Periasamy

            1) Per unit cost of Solar is not yet cheaper than Nuclear.
            If someone wants to argue that, with higher MW of Solar installations the cost will come down, then it is all the more applicable for Nuclear power plants.
            2) Probably you also miss the point that the Peak Load demand in India is in the evening hours ( 06.00 PM to 11.00 PM) and hence we need to have Coal / Nuclear / Hydel power plants to meet this demand. Hence, Solar becomes redundant. In Germany, the peak load demand is in day time and it coincides with solar peak production. Hence, it makes sense for them to go for solar.

          • Calamity_Jean

            “Per unit cost of Solar is not yet cheaper than Nuclear.”

            What? Solar is cheaper than nuclear in cloudy old England! http://cleantechnica.com/2013/02/19/solar-power-cheaper-than-nuclear-in-cloudy-old-england Of course it’s cheaper than nuclear in sunny India.

            “…the Peak Load demand in India is in the evening hours….”

            In the daytime in India, factories don’t operate? Businesses don’t do business? People don’t want electric power? Really?

          • K.Periasamy

            A)This is where the problem lies !
            You look at the rate at which the power is purchased from the Solar plant operators.
            You are not looking at :
            1) The Viability Gap Funding / Accelerated Depreciation Benefit and the Cheap Funds provided by Foreign agencies / Financial Institutions.
            2) The compulsory 8% (?) Green power usage by the Discoms and the associated cost borne by the consumers.
            3) The idle investment in the Coal / Nuclear power plants which are anyway built to meet the Peak load and kept idle during the day time since Solar is feeding the “cheap ” power to the grid.

            So, please have a holistic picture for the nation and the world

            B) Obviously you seem to be not knowing what is meant by “Peak Load Demand”.
            Otherwise, you will not make the silly comment :
            “In the daytime in India, factories don’t operate? Businesses don’t do business? People don’t want electric power? Really?”

          • Ronald Brakels

            No, K.Periasamy, solar is cheaper than nuclear. I suggest you go and look up the latest Power Purchase Agreements made for solar. India’s Energy Minister has pointed out that solar now beats coal on price. And new nuclear power is not cheaper than coal.

          • K.Periasamy

            This is where the problem lies !
            You look at the Power Purchase Agreement only.
            You are not looking at :
            1) The Viability Gap Funding / Accelerated Depreciation Benefit and the Cheap Funds provided by Foreign agencies / Financial Institutions.
            2) The compulsory 8% (?) Green power usage by the Discoms and the associated cost borne by the consumers
            3) The idle investment in the Coal / Nuclear power plants which are anyway built to meet the Peak load and kept idle during the day time since Solar is feeding the “cheap ” power to the grid.

            So, please have a holistic picture for the nation and the world.

            Hope you have understood the concept of Peak Load Demand and now the final issue is on cost comparison only !
            It will always be nice if you can acknowledge the agreed points and then go for the disputed points !

          • Ronald Brakels

            K.Periasamy, I would have thought that Power Purchase Agreements would be the best way to compare prices.

            1) If financing is cheaper for solar that means solar is cheaper than what it would be if financing wasn’t cheaper. If you think about it, you’ll see I’m correct.

            2) If coal plants are idle because solar is providing electricity that is called a win for humanity. Lives will be saved from the reduction in health effects from pollution and lives will be saved by the reducing the amount of global warming that otherwise would have resulted from the emission of greenhouse gases.

            Here where I am, South Australia, we generate electricity from wind and solar equal to or greater than 41% of the state’s consumption from wind and solar. (About 33% wind and about 7.5% rooftop solar.) This is likely to increase to 50% this year. As a result, we are shutting down the state’s last remaining coal power station and thus reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The coal mine that supplies it has already been shut down. This is a good thing for the health of South Australians and a good thing for the environment.

            Shutting down coal power stations through the use of cleaner alternatives is called humanity winning against its destructive side. I would say it’s an investment in the future, but it is actually more like us deciding not to bang our heads against a brick wall.

          • K.Periasamy

            “1) If financing is cheaper for solar that means solar is cheaper than what it would be if financing wasn’t cheaper.”

            What do you mean by this statement ?

            Presently Solar and Wind power plants are given lower interest loan than for Nuclear / Coal power plants. Also, there are other incentives given to Solar and Wind. With all these incentives only the Power Purchase Agreement is made. If not, the Solar / Wind unit cost will be much higher.

            “2) If coal plants are idle because solar is providing electricity that is called a win for humanity.”

            It is not just Coal power plants. If we have Nuclear power plants also, the same logic applies. Nuclear is as clean as the Solar / Wind.

            Secondly, with interest rates ruling high at 15% in India, we can not afford to make double investment ( Solar & Nuclear (or) Coal) and keep the Nuclear /Coal plants idle.

            What is the interest rate in Australia ?

            With regard to the South Australian power sources, can you share a) The daily load curve for the 365 days. b) How this demand is met c) What is the PLF of Solar d) What is the PLF of Wind d) What is the PLF of Coal ?
            e) What is the Peak Load Demand period in each month ?

          • Ronald Brakels

            K.Periasamy, you asked what I meant by, “If financing is cheaper for solar that means solar is cheaper than what it would be if financing wasn’t cheaper.”

            It’s hard to express it more simply.

            If I wanted to borrow money to buy a house, and if bank A bank offered me a home loan rate of 10% and bank B offered me a home loan rate of 9%, then it would be cheaper for me if I got a loan from bank B.

            If you are worried about “double investment” then don’t do that. It’s really quite simple. And it’s not likely to happen by accident. In many locations solar is cheaper than new coal and far cheaper than new nuclear, but it is not yet close to beating the marginal cost of electricity from existing nuclear power plants. Well, in Australia our distributed solar can out compete any utility scale generation, but that’s a different matter from utility scale solar.

          • K.Periasamy

            1) Have you understood the fact that the financial institutions offer loan to solar/wind at a lower interest than for nuclear and that is why solar / wind is cheaper ?

            2) Financial institutions offer lower interest rate for Solar / Wind because the governments want to promote solar / wind !

            3)If both Solar and Nuclear are given loan at the same interest rates and the other government incentives like Accelerated Depreciation benefit, Viability Gap Funding, Compulsory Procurement of a certain percentage of Solar power by the power distribution companies, etc, then Nuclear will become cheaper.

            4) Investing in Coal and Nuclear power plants in parallel to Solar / Wind is not our wish ! We have no choice !
            Since Solar is not available for 16 hours a day, and Wind Mills are not available for 7 months in year, what do we do without the Coal / Nuclear during these periods ?

            The problem becomes more serious if the Peak load happens to be in the 06.00 PM to 11.00 PM when the Sun does not shine ! That is the case in India !

        • Sreehari Variar

          So, you are saying all day time demand is met right now? So tell me why I’m having 4 hour load shedding during the day still? That’s in a reasonably well off part of the city. I know of places where its 8-9 hours during the day.

          And even if I had interrupted power supply all day, I would still want investment in renewables. This is a long term game. You can’t have capacity installed as and when you need it. Once you have the power available you can think of ways to leverage on it. For example, we can think of innovative ways to charge EVs using the afternoon peak. This can be used to drive EV adoption if there’s some incentive to charge in those hours. That might reduce the future peak night demand. You can’t do it without a long term strategy. Apart from all these, demand for renewable right now can support a hitech manufacturing industry and ecosystem development which will be beneficial to drive down the cost in future.

          You see, there’s a lot of synergy. Don’t just look at it from the time of the day demand perspective.

          • K.Periasamy

            1) When you say, daytime load is not met, then automatically it means night time load is also not met. That is what is Peak Load Demand period is all about, and it is in the 6.00 PM to 11.00 PM in most parts of India. Since the entire country is grid connected, it applies to the country as a whole.
            2) Storing electricity in MWHrs by all means other than Pumped Storage is a costly affair. Battery option has the following issues : a) About 30% overall loss, b)Battery replacement every 5 to 6 years and associated pollution c) Substantial investment cost ( PV+Battery) for a system with PLF of 20% and very high energy loss.
            3) Nuclear power is much better in terms of saving CO2 emission.
            Hence, please get rid of passions. Think through brain rather than heart.

          • Sreehari Variar

            Okay. Lets say now we make are making plans to get as many of people online as possible as soon as possible. Would you rather plan for nuclear which takes 10+ years to commission or would you pick solar or wind which would take 1-2 years max to commission?

          • K.Periasamy

            Firstly, please tell me know whether you have understood the whole discussion on Peak Load, PLF, CO2, etc and you are in agreement with the points discussed.
            Then we will go to the new topic of Gestation periods !

    • parag

      Your idea of nuclear power in india seems to be wrong unless we have a thorium reactor. India has uranium reserves which will not last long enough and is severaly dependent on imports.
      Finally it all comes down to being energy independent. To this effect it is better to tax a dirty resource and create just a little bit expensive solar and wind power than to depend on the imported uranium.

      • K.Periasamy

        1) Are you aware of our Three Stage Nuclear Program ?
        2) We had temporary set back on the Uranium availability and now we have imported enough Uranium and we also have found new Uranium resources.
        3) After the Indo-US-NSG Deal, we can import as much Uranium as we need.
        4) Earlier Uranium enrichment was a problem for the Tarapur reactors. Today we have the required centrifuges.
        5) When you are ready to depend on Middle East and other countries for crude oil import to the extent of 80%, why are you worried about temporary imports and Life Time guaranteed supply of Uranium for imported Reactors ?

        • parag

          You sir have written a book but do you know that the fabled 3 stage program was conceptualized in 1950 and Full exploitation of India’s domestic thorium reserves will likely not occur until after the year 2050.

          And you seem to have mistaken the point that i support oil import from middle east. I am against import of any energy material oil and uranium both.

          What i am suggesting is taxing of oil and coal both so that wind and solar can be developed.

          i agree that there is plenty of uranium in world and particularly in the sea water and also thorium particularly in india to generate power for centuries but there seems to be ignorance about the amount of water a reactor (even coal and gas plants use too much water) uses to generate electricity. I dont think nuclear power will be limited in development because of its cost but the environmental concerns like discharge of cooling water which warms up the ocean, supplying of fresh water etc etc.

          • K.Periasamy

            1) You said about using Thorium instead of Uranium.

            I wanted you to take note of the Three Stage Nuclear program. As per this program, we necessarily have to get enough Pu-239 to start utilizing the abundant Thorium we have.
            We have slipped by about 25 years on the First and Second phase because, we were stubborn in refusing to sign NPT and went ahead with Nuclear Bomb testing in 1974. Otherwise, by now we would have been already in 3rd Stage, utilizing Thorium.

            Anyhow, now with the signing of Indo-US-NSG Deal, we are able to get enough and more of Uranium fuel and Reactors with funding, without compromising on NPT.

            Hence, we will ultimately use Thorium and we have got enough Uranium also now.
            Hence, we are almost independent on electric power fuel source, with Nuclear Energy itself. We need not depend upon other options like Solar and Wind.

            The rational behind not using Solar and Wind has been amply explained in several postings in this article itself.

            2) W.r.t use of Cooling water, the warming up of the ocean by Nuclear ( and Coal) is practically nothing compared to the solar radiation. The Global warming issue and the related Glacier melting is related to CO2 and other Green house gas emissions, for which Coal power is one of the culprits and not Nuclear power.
            3) W.r.t the fresh water usage by Nuclear power, it is almost negligible for the coastal plants. For the inland plants, yes it is required and it is common fro both Coal and nuclear. If we have to choose between Coal and Nuclear, as there is absolute need for anyone due to our Peak Load demand in the night ( 06.00PM to 11.00 PM), obviously we need to choose Nuclear.

  • JamesWimberley

    US $6 per tonne is still a very low tax. Typical proposals for carbon taxes range from $30 to $100 per tonne. But the signal it sends should worry companies in coal mining and coal generation. The economics of new coal plants are so poor that the huge Ultra-Mega Plant programme has ground to a halt, and every little hike in the cost of coal makes its resumption less likely.

    I’ve nothing against spending money on tiger conservation, but if the revenues from the tax on coal are going to be earmarked, the first claim should be health care for the millions whose lives have been ruined by air pollution from burning coal.

    • Frank

      I read this differently. I thought the tax was per ton of coal, and not ton of CO2.

      • neroden

        Even a small increment to the price of coal will help kill it since it’s teetering on economic uncompetitiveness already. So good for India.

      • sukumar

        It is per tonne of coal

    • Kevin McKinney

      Frank’s point below is a good one, though I suspect James knew that and was just making a rough comparison for context. But following up on the thought:

      “…1 pound of carbon combines with 2.667 pounds of oxygen to produce 3.667 pounds of carbon dioxide. For example, coal with a carbon content of 78 percent and a heating value of 14,000 Btu per pound emits about 204.3 pounds of carbon dioxide per million Btu when completely burned.(5) Complete combustion of 1 short ton (2,000 pounds) of this coal will generate about 5,720 pounds (2.86 short tons) of carbon dioxide.”

      So, to get a slightly better estimate–this still doesn’t account for the fact that various types of coal differ greatly–you have to divide the $6 by a factor of 5.7. That of course means that the tax is still more inadequate than one might think at first blush. Still, baby steps…


      • Pawan Sharma

        How much solar can be installed with 2.4 billion dollars?

        • Nolan Thiessen

          From another article today:
          “At current market conditions, the 500 MW project is expected to require a total investment of Rs 3,000 crore (US$450 million).”
          So $2.67GW at those prices.

      • JamesWimberley

        Carbon taxes are usually given as per tonne of carbon (tC), not per tonne of CO2 (tCO2) which as you say should be 4 times higher. Wikipedia: “peer-reviewed estimates of the SCC [social cost of carbon] for 2005 had an average value of $43/tC with a standard deviation of $83/tC.”

        • Kevin McKinney

          Interestingly, there’s a breakout of the BC carbon tax rate by fuel on Wikipedia, sourced from the provincial government. It has ‘high heat value coal’ taxed at $62.31 (CDN) per tonne, and ‘low heat value coal’ at ten bucks less. (Not sure of the logic of that, but…)


          So the BC tax–currently frozen at that level till next year, when it presumably comes up for review–is at current exchange rates around 6-7 times the Indian rate.

    • Harry Johnson

      Once the tigers are gone, they are gone forever. The planet has no shortage of people. So many species are just hanging on and global warming is just getting started. The future is very bleak for Nature and India should be commended for helping save all of the environment.

  • parag

    Hope other countries have the guts to do what india just did.
    Good thing is revenue collected will be used for green projects.

    • K.Periasamy

      For doing Don Quixote exercises out of passion we do not need guts !

      Only for doing activities with some basis and some uncertainties we need guts.

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