May 21, 2014

Australian coal prospects dim as PM Modi spotlights solar

India’s newly elected Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has started his first term in office with a promise that the power-starved nation will strongly focus on solar power.

Narendra Taneja, head of energy in Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party said “We look upon solar as having the potential to completely transform the way we look at the energy space,” said, as the BJT come to power last Friday (May 16) in the biggest electoral win in three decades.

Modi’s proposed “saffron revolution” is a political promise that holds a lot of appeal, as well as massive economic opportunity. Now, as Prime Minister, growing renewable energy generation will remain one of Modi’s top priorities, according to Taneja, especially solar, with its potential to create many jobs and supply millions of households not connected to the grid.

It is a heavy blow to the coal industry which presumed it was the only power source capable of delivering electricity, despite India’s notorious infrastructure problems. For coal exporting nations like Australia, however – who have been forging ahead with the development of new mega mines and infrastructure in the belief that coal is the only solution to India’s booming energy needs – this news will not be welcome.

And as recently as January, leading investment bank HSBC warned that the market value of the coal assets owned by Australia’s biggest mining groups could be slashed by nearly half – or more than $US20 billion – due to constraints of the global “carbon budget;” a concept HSBC says is gaining traction, given the climate science, and the implementation of pollution control policies in the US and China.

A month earlier, in December, the International Energy Agency trimmed its five-year forecast of global coal use, warning that environmental constraints, financing issues, and the current cost of coal exports raised “concerns about the economic feasibility of projects in the Galilee Basin.”

Acknowledgement to Sophie Vorrath

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