For the first time since 1982, India’s CO2 emissions have fallen. According to the BBC, the lockdown from the coronavirus pandemic was the tipping point of something already happening. In an analysis by Carbon Brief, a study found that India’s carbon dioxide emissions had fallen 15% in March and were likely to have fallen by 30% in April. Almost all of the drop-off in power demand was from coal-fired generators shutting down or running less.
In March, coal-fired power generation went down by 15%, and during the first three weeks in April, by 31%. These stats come from India’s national grid. When the fiscal year ended in March 2020, it showed that coal deliveries were down by 2%. That’s a small number, but over the previous decade, there was a 7.5% increase in thermal power generation.
Demand for coal has been declining since early 2019. Add in two more factors: the impact of COVID-19 and the fact that oil consumption was down 18% year on year in March 2020. These statistics paint a clear picture that India is slowly waking up out of its smog-filled headspace. In contrast, the supply of energy from renewables has increased and has held up through the pandemic. This shows that renewable energy could become a new normal as fossil fuels start to phase out. Bring on the pandemic and suddenly we see a major drop in carbon emissions. This is a good thing for our air and our climate.
Renewables in India offer a much lower cost for electricity than coal. Hopefully, the clean sky and air that many in India have experienced lately will help raise awareness about the need for cleaner energy solutions to take root.
Analysts do warn that this decline will not last. Many think that when the pandemic is over, emissions will soar again due to people “going back to normal.” I think, however, that regarding the pandemic, we still have a long road ahead of us before we go back to “normal.” Hopefully, as we are all on that road, we can find better solutions to keep our air cleaner.
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