Renewed pursuit: The new draft NEP's claim that coal produces India's cheapest power may greenlight even more coal plants, despite contradictions with the country's climate commitments | Photo: TRTWorld

India to possibly build more coal plants over “cheapest” cost of generation

India’s new draft National Electricity Plan (NEP) for 2021 may see it build even more coal plants, as the document suggests that “coal-based generation capacity continues to be the cheapest source of generation”. The draft would be an update to the previous NEP from 2018, and the suggestion to augment coal capacity comes despite several recent tenders that discovered sub-Rs.2/kWh prices for solar and wind power. Even when mated to battery energy storage, the systems’ baseload tariffs were cheaper than coal, while their average tariffs were at least as competitive as new coal power, if not cheaper. 

The draft NEP, however, says that its emphasis remains on expanding clean power capacity, and all new coal plants would be of ultra supercritical technology. 

France bans short domestic flights, passengers to take trains instead 

The French government adopted a ban on short domestic flights and passengers would now have to travel the distances by train instead, if the travel time is under two and a half hours.  The routes banned were initially proposed to be four hours long, but the ban was shortened after strong opposition from Air France KLM and certain regions. The development is a part of President Macron’s bid to lower the country’s carbon emissions — an aircraft emits ~77 times more CO2 than a train on the same route — and may be replicated by other climate-conscious European nations. 

Austrian Airlines, for instance, adopted a similar ban on its flights between Vienna and Graz in November 2020, and passengers now travel the route by a three-hour train journey. The Netherlands, on the other hand, has so far failed in its efforts even though it has been trying for a similar ban since 2013. 

US coal mining union ready to back renewable energy in exchange for jobs

The largest coal miners’ union in the US said that it would support President Joe Biden’s push for renewable energy, provided the affected coal miners were given jobs through the energy transition. The union has also demanded that the administration spend heavily on cleaning up coal power, invest in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and expand the tax incentives for renewable energy, along with employing displaced coal miners first. The union’s move is highly significant as coal has lost half its market share in the country since 2010 to cheaper renewables and natural gas, and several utilities are moving away from the fuel for better profits.

Wyoming adopts law to sue US states hurting its coal economy 

The coal-heavy US state of Wyoming adopted a law that sets aside $1.2 million as funds to sue states like Colorado, whose pursuit of renewable energy has endangered Wyoming’s ability to export coal and coal power. The adoption was justified by Republican senator Jeremy Haroldson, who said he didn’t believe renewable energy was reliable enough. Along with neighbouring state Montana, Wyoming has also previously petitioned the US Supreme Court against Washington state for its refusal to grant them a permit for a coal-export terminal.  

However, Colorado has countered by saying that it was the first state to set up an office for just transition, and was willing to talk to Wyoming about the future of its coal workforce. 

Seven EU nations resolve to stop export finance for fossil fuels 

Seven member nations of the EU, including Germany, UK and France, decided to stop all public export guarantees for fossil fuel projects, which would take away the state-backed financing and insurance protection afforded to the countries’ fossil fuel exports. The other countries are Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark, and the French minister for economy and finance, Mr. Bruno Lamaire, expressed hope that the US, too, would join the group — which would extend the ban to 40% of fossil fuel export finance amongst OECD countries.

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