Net zero doesn’t mean not producing emission. It is about absorbing whatever is being emitted. India is working towards building that capacity along with a massive thrust on renewables as the country sees a requirement of 1.5 billion tonnes of coal by 2040, coal minister Pralhad Joshi tells Sanjay Dutta.
How difficult is it being the coal minister when the world is clamouring for phasing out the dry fuel?
My paramount job is to ensure India’s energy security. Our emission is a third of the major economies. No doubt, we will do more renewables. But our energy requirement will grow manifold. Prime minister is very clear that we must save the world and we will sacrifice whatever we have to for this. We will arrest our emission, but we will use our natural resources for our energy security.
So, coal will remain the mainstay of our energy basket?
Why only coal. As the environment minister (Bhupender Yadav) has clearly told COP27, we must talk about all fossil fuels. Of course, we will meet 50% of our power requirement from renewables by 2030. But our electricity demand will also rise. So, for the remaining 50% we must use fossil fuel. Net zero does not mean we will not produce emission. It means we absorb whatever we emit. The key question is how we absorb the emission. We are working towards building that capacity with aggressive plantation, coal gasification and using mine water for plantation, irrigation and drinking purposes. These are to reduce the emission.
What is the growth trajectory you have set for coal production?
Why only us? If you look around, coal is making a comeback everywhere. Our electricity demand will double by 2040. As I explained, even after producing 50% power from renewables we need coal to meet the remaining half of the demand. Last year our total dispatch was 817 million tonnes (mt). In 2014, it was 572 mt. This year production will be almost double that of 2014 at 900 million tonne. I am confident we will reach one billion tonne production by 2023-24 and Coal India will reach that mark by 2025-26. Our estimate is that our requirement by 2040 will be about 1.5 billion tonnes.
State generation companies have run up huge outstanding bills against Coal India. Do you think the power sector reforms have neglected the issue of ensuring timely payment to fuel suppliers?
I don’t feel it has been neglected. I feel more thrust is required. We are discussing with the power ministry to mandate timely payment for fuel in the reforms they are bringing. The state governments also must consider that this is not a sustainable situation. This is a result of the freebie culture. We cannot continue with it. We did not raise prices when global prices went up to Rs 14,000-16,000 per tonne; we continue to sell at Rs 1,800 per tonne. How long can we continue supplying fuel if bills worth thousands of crores remain unpaid?
What about non-coal mining reforms?
We have brought about sea change and simplified the process, which has enabled us to auction 102 mines of various minerals in 15 months. Today mining accounts for 0.9% of GDP. Our target is to take it to 2.5% of GDP.





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