India witnessed a drop in its carbon emission since 1980, and the reason is not just the nationwide lockdown. There has been a fall in electricity usage and competition for renewable energy has reduced the demand for fossil fuels even before the pandemic began. However, the lockdown was finally able to reverse the emission growth. India's carbon emission fell for the first time by 40%, and the reason is not just the lockdown.
The carbon dioxide emission first fell by 15% in March, followed by 30% in April, according to the data from Indian National Grid. All major fall was witnessed in the coal-fired generators. But the demand for coal fell way before the lockdown. There was a 2% reduction in coal demand at the ending of the fiscal year ending March 2020, which may seem small, but is very significant. There was an increase of 7.5% in thermal power generation. Indian oil consumption also fell in a similar manner, falling by 18% in March 2020.
The slowdown has been since early 2019. And the trend was impacted even more by the COVID-19 lockdown, as the transport sector closed. India has also doubled its efforts in battling the climate crisis and more and more villages are being powered with Solar plants.
Meanwhile, the demand for renewable energy rose rapidly. According to figures published by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world's usage of coal was down by 8%. Wind and solar power demand increased drastically.
The demand for coal fell sharply as it costs more to run on a day-to-day basis. Once a solar panel or wind turbine is installed, operating costs are very low. But analysts warn that the decline may be temporary. When the pandemic is over, there will be a risk that emission will be higher than usual to kick-start the economies. The US has already relaxed environmental regulations to attract more investments. The analysis, however, suggests there are reasons why India could buck this trend. The coronavirus pandemic has been hard on the already very-low India economy, and the Indian government has declared a 20 lakh crore rupees relief package, which is nearly 10% of the country's GDP. But at the same time, India is making use of renewable energy as a part of its recovery plan. Renewables have an economic edge, offering a cheaper solution than coal. The solar capacity can cost as little as 2.55 rupees/ Kilowatt hour. Investment in cleaner energy sources has been a part of the country's National Clean Air Programme, launched in 2019. Hence Indians can hope to have cleaner air and clearer skies even after the lockdown ends.
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