Environmental Approvals for Coal Mine Expansions to Address the Fuel Crisis
India has allowed coal mine expansions in order to be able to tackle the increasing needs, a record in recent weeks.
Due to hours-long blackouts, the mines in question were allowed to expand output by 40% and produce as much as 50% more than the original planned capacity. According to a government note, some existing sites will be able to increase production by 10% without requiring new impact assessments. The rules on consulting local residents have also been loosened.
With fuel accounting for more than 70% of India’s electricity generation, authorities observed several facilities operating on critical reserves of the fuel. Blackouts and restrictions on supply to certain industries have led to street protests. This shortage also affected the rising demand for transportation infrastructure. Consequently, a lack of railway carriages to transport fuel from mines to power plants has also been recorded.
The changes will last for six months. They were in response to complaints concerning how long the processes for getting environmental approvals could slow down efforts to solve the crisis. Miners want to accelerate production before the rainy season starts at the end of June, which can flood operations and slow down production rates.
According to Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, weakening environmental standards could ultimately prove counterproductive. Acting with no prior public consultation runs the danger of causing tension between mining operations and local communities, which can lead to delays caused by demonstrations and legal challenges.
"Policymakers believe that such exclusions make it easier to conduct business, but the reality is the exact opposite", Dahiya added. "It’s a very myopic vision by the environment regulator."
According to Vibhuti Garg, an energy economist at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, India should adhere to its decarbonization goals to avoid future supply shocks, but also take actions towards modernizing the electricity grid and expanding its capacity to produce solar and wind equipment.
"The long-term solution is to build more renewable energy", she said in a Bloomberg Television interview.
Source : Business Standard