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NEW DELHI: India will start operating new coal-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 13.9 gigawatts (GW) this year, its power ministry said in a statement to Reuters, the highest annual increase in at least six years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has cited energy security concerns amid surging power demand and low per-capita emissions to defend India’s high dependence on coal. Power generation in 2023 increased by 11.3%, the fastest pace in at least five years.

“In the next 18 months, about 19,600 MW (megawatts of) capacity is likely to be commissioned,” the power ministry said in a statement on Thursday. That will include the 13.9 GW likely to be commissioned this year.

The 2024 capacity increase will be more than four times the annual average in the last five years. India added 4 GW of coal-fired power capacity in 2023, the most in a year since 2019.

Coal-fired output surged 14.7% during the year, outpacing renewable energy output growth for the first time since at least 2019. Green energy output rose 12.2% in 2023, an analysis of daily load dispatch data from the federal grid regulator showed.

The south Asian nation failed to achieve a target to add 175 GW of renewable power capacity by 2022. The planned coal-fired capacity increase in 2024 will exceed its 2023 renewables increase of 13 GW. The Ministry of Power has envisaged adding at least 53.6 GW of coal-fired power capacity over the eight years ending March 2032, it said, in addition to the 26.4 GW currently being constructed. Coal currently accounts for over 50% of India’s installed capacity of 428.3 GW.

Construction of coal-fired projects has faced significant delays. However, New Delhi has begun a review of plants whose construction has been held up for years, moving to resolve issues over equipment and land acquisition delays.

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