Switch to renewable energy: Will India beat China?

17 May 2017 | By Anupama Vijayakumar
Will India overtake China as the greener economy?

The growth of India and China as large economies has been fired by coal. Recent developments including international pressure to address climate change have forced these two economic giants to plan power generation around renewable sources.

A comparison of Indian and Chinese energy plans for the next five years reveal that India might soon draw about half its energy from renewable sources, overtaking China.

In context: Will India overtake China as the greener economy?

17 May 2017Switch to renewable energy: Will India beat China?

ContextWhat context is this happening in?

China and India are the world's first and fourth largest green house gas emitters respectively. Moreover, rampant environmental degradation resulting out of a growth-based focus on development has led to public discontent as evidenced by winter smog scenarios in Beijing and New Delhi.

Like in other issue areas, India and China are pitted as competitors, vying for influence in the global clean technology market.

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Where do they currently stand?

India's total capacity stands at 320 Gigawatts (large-scale hydro-power excluded), comprised of 12 and 32 GW of solar and wind power respectively. Wind and solar energy contributes to 149 and 77 GW to China's total energy mix at 1646 GW, accounting for a smaller proportion.

TargetsWhat does India plan on doing?

India's third Draft National Electricity Plan published in December 2016, recommends for a number of ways on how India can bring more renewables into its energy mix and still meet its electricity demand until 2027.

The Plan intends to achieve a ten-fold increase in solar capacity and double the wind capacity by 2022, getting the total installed renewable capacity to 175 GW.

ScenariosReducing dependence on coal

With additional installed renewable generation capacity, the share of coal could fall from 60% to 48% by 2022.

According to the electricity plan estimates, India only requires an additional 44 GW coal generation capacity to meet its demand in 2022-2027.

With 50 GW of coal generation capacity already under construction, this implies that India could likely have a 6 GW surplus by 2027.

DetailsWhat does China plan to do?

China plans on peaking emissions by 2030, and intends to limit its coal generation capacity at 1100 GW. It further plans on drawing 39% of the country's power from non-fossil fuel sources by the end of the 13th Plan period (2016-2020), while reducing coal's share to 55%

It further plans on reducing its emissions intensity under its pledge submitted to the UNFCCC in 2015.

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AnalysisWill India overtake China?

India is likely to overtake China if it manages to tackle obstacles including losses from power transmission and supply and make concerted efforts to meet its targets.

However, its non-fossil fuel generating capacity would still be lesser than one-third of China's capacity.

China is further likely to achieve emissions reduction through transferring its industrial excess capacity through projects including the Belt and Road Initiative.