When economies stumble, slackening electricity demand is a very common symptom, and in India's case, the current rapid decline is quite specific to coal, an international researcher said on Tuesday.
Collectively, power from all non-coal sources grew by about 24,000 gigawatt hour or 8.4 per cent to the end of October 2019 with hydro, solar and nuclear energies adding substantially to their generation levels and continuing upwards.
Coal, however, is the exception. While making the largest contribution to extra energy as of late July, it faltered in August and collapsed in September and October, said researcher Charles Worringham, a researcher with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) South Asia.
"Coal has produced about 12,500 gigawatt hour less electricity than at the same time last financial year," said Worringham.
"And less coal has been used for power in the last 12 months than the year before.
"The scale and speed of coal's relative decline partly reflects increased hydro, solar and even nuclear generation, but not power plant coal shortages as in previous years. Indeed, power plants are generating less, but have higher coal stocks than a year ago.
"Rather, India's economy appears to be limiting the use of available coal by the power sector."
Worringham suggests the current coal slump offers India an unusual opportunity.
"While not under pressure from burgeoning electricity demand growth, India could fortify its necessary energy transition plans, reduce the country's 1.2 million annual air pollution-related deaths, and stimulate urgently needed rural job growth, all the while enhancing India's energy security through greater domestic capacity.
"This could include a revival of large-scale renewable infrastructure investment in preparation for sustained higher growth, while accelerating HVDC (high-voltage, direct current) green corridors and plans for the flexible operation of thermal power plants, as well as new projects built on the comprehensive and collaborative grid integration studies India has developed.
"As India presses forward with its renewable energy transition, as and when higher economic growth does resume, it will be fueled by substantially cleaner energy than in the past," said Worringham.