(The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a columnist for Reuters.)

LITTLETON, Colorado - India's coal-fired electricity generation scaled a new high in January 2024 as the world's second largest coal user after China cranked coal's share of the country's electricity generation mix to a record 80%.

Coal-powered electricity output was 115 terawatt hours (TWh) in January 2024, a new high and up 10% from the same month in 2023, data from energy think tank Ember shows.

Emissions from coal generation in January hit 104.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), while emissions from all power sources hit 107.5 million tons, which marked a record in both categories and a 10% rise from January 2023.



The increase in coal generation came as output from solar, wind and hydro facilities dropped by 3%, 19% and 21.4% respectively from the same month a year ago.

Cumulative clean-powered electricity generation was 26.6 TWh in January, which was 11.2% down from January 2023 and resulted in clean power's share of India's total electricity generation mix dropping to a 5-year low of 18.4% last month.

Going forward, utilities should be able to deploy growing volumes of clean power onto India's electricity grids, as the country's clean power generation total tends to peak around August when solar, wind and hydro output have historically scaled their highs for the year.

That growth in output from renewables and hydro facilities should allow clean power's share of the national generation mix to climb as well, to a peak of around 30%-32% during the third quarter of the year.



Despite the expected climb in clean energy generation, rising demand for air conditioning during the warmest months of the year means that power generation firms are unlikely to be able to make big cuts to the use of coal and other fossil fuels.

Indeed, as India's total power consumption continues to climb at a faster pace than utilities can add supply, power firms have been forced to boost output from coal and natural gas alongside clean power generation just to keep up with the country's round-the-clock electricity use.

This means that India's power sector emissions rarely deviate much over the course of the year, and tend to climb to new highs each year as total generation from fossil fuel and clean energy sources climb.

In 2023, India's total power sector emissions hit 1.18 billion tons of CO2, undergoing an 8.6% climb on the year.

India's power firms are likely to smash that record in 2024 if they sustain the high levels of coal generation seen in January through the coming months, even if output from clean energy sources also scales new highs later in the year.

(Reporting by Gavin Maguire; Editing by Marguerita Choy)