Coal and lignite businesses have planned to install an extra 5,560 megawatt (MW) of renewable capacity in India with an investment of over Rs 15,000 crore to contribute to India’s ambition to raise non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030, according to the coal ministry on Thursday.

This will bring the total capacity built to 7 GW. According to the ministry, Coal India Ltd alone plans to install 3 GW of solar power in the next five years to meet its net-zero goal.

India has made a significant step toward consolidating its commitment to renewable energy with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent announcement at COP26 of new climate targets under the ‘Panchamrit Strategy.’
Because coal will continue to play a significant role in power generation in the country for the foreseeable future, until renewable energy sources can fully meet our energy demand, the Ministry of Coal has already begun work on a comprehensive Sustainable Development Plan, according to the statement.

Action has already begun to expedite its implementation. The emphasis is on long-term development in coal mining, with consideration for its environmental and social consequences.

The coal ministry has formed a full-fledged sustainable development cell (SDC) to advise, coach, and organize activities to reduce mining’s negative effects. SDC is developing a future policy framework for environmental mitigation in the coal and lignite sectors of the country, in addition to providing a path forward, implementing it, and monitoring it.
CIL and its subsidiaries, as well as Singareni Coal Company Ltd (SCCL) and NLC India Ltd (NLCIL), have already begun extensive work, the results of which can now be seen in some of these mining firms.

Bio-reclamation of mined-out land has already been taken up on a large scale by all coal companies through a vast tree plantation push, it added, in keeping with India’s promise to reduce overall anticipated carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now until 2030.

The goal for the next five years is to plant more than 12,000 hectares of land, which will contribute to a carbon sink capacity of more than one lakh tonnes every year. Remote sensing is used to track the progress of such activities.
First-Mile Connectivity (FMC) is a major endeavor by coal firms to reduce pollution by transporting coal from coal handling plants to silos for loading via conveyor belt. This method prevents coal from being transported by road. The government announced that 39 such projects with a total investment of over Rs 13,000 crore will be commissioned by 2023-24.

By 2023-24, CIL alone will increase its mechanical loading and transport of coal from 120 million tonnes to 565 million tonnes. These FMC improvements will save Rs 2,100 crore in diesel every year. Vehicle density will be reduced by 2,770 trucks per hour, resulting in considerable reductions in carbon emissions.

Surface coal gasification projects have also been planned for the production of syngas, which will be utilized to make methanol/ethanol, urea, or petrochemicals. This will pave the door for the use of dry fuel as green coal, with a lower carbon footprint and less pollution, according to the report.

In Odisha’s Talcher Coalfield, a CIL joint venture plant with a capacity of 2.5 million tonnes per year is already operational. CIL’s other five projects, with a total expenditure of almost Rs 30,000 crore, are in the planning stages.

The use of LNG to replace diesel in mining and coal transportation equipment is also being considered on a large scale. In one of the coal businesses, a pilot project has been started. In the first phase, this technology will be reproduced in coal transportation dumpers, resulting in a significant reduction in carbon footprint, according to the statement.
On the clean environment front, 12 new eco-parks in the mining area are in various stages of development in all CIL, SCCL, and NLCIL subsidiaries, and will be completed by the end of the year.

Another unusual idea for sustainable development is the extraction of sand from an overburden (OB) dump for use in construction. In addition, energy-efficiency measures are being implemented to reduce carbon emissions. Various coal businesses have implemented new environmentally friendly mining equipment on a large scale to limit the impact of carbon emissions, according to the report.

All of these actions will pave the way for the coal industry to benchmark a stronger sustainable development effort on the economic, environmental, and social fronts over the next five years, in line with the COP26 promise.