Clean energy projects are expanding throughout India. So why does Australia need to send more coal?

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Feature Story - 10 April, 2013
Coal giants and politicians who push to increase Australia’s coal exports often point to rising energy demands in places like China and India.
Renewable Energy India@Greenpeace 

If Australia doesn’t export more coal, they say, remote villages in India will never get electricity. There are 300 million people, mostly in rural parts of India, without access to electricity but right now a new wave of renewable energy projects is taking off across the country:

  • The Punjab government is installing solar-panel covers over 18,000km of irrigation canals, reducing evaporation and generating electricity at the same time.
  • In Ladakh, high on the Himalayan plateau, solar technology is being used for heating, cooking and power.
  • A group called Selco is delivering free solar-lights to the energy poor.
  • Villages are using cow dung in biogas plants to generate clean gas for cooking.
  • In Bihar, rice husks (a waste product) are being used to generate 6 to 7 hours of electricity each evening for 100,000 people.

These projects prove that, with a little creativity, everyone in India could access electricity using clean energy sources. Watch this fantastic video from our friends at Greenpeace India.

Growing opposition to coal

Environmentalists are alarmed that in central India over 1 million hectares of forest are threatened by plans for new coal mines. Dozens of power plants in several provinces have faced sustained opposition from local communities, including traditional fishing people, farmers and families concerned about the health impacts of coal.

Greenpeace India recently teamed up with two other organisations to release a report quantifying the health impact of coal power in India. The report found that the premature death of between 80,000 and 115,000 people every year can be attributed to coal power in India, including 10,000 children under five.

For all these reasons, India does not have an endless appetite for Australia’s coal. There are better, cleaner, cheaper ways to meet India’s electricity needs and India appears to be finding them. As German clean energy advocate Dr Harmann Scheer said:

“Our dependence on fossil fuels amounts to a global pyromania, and the only fire extinguisher we have at our disposal is renewable energy.”