Door Vijay Jayaraj.

As host of the Sept. 9 G20 summit, India is ready to defend its use of fossil fuels despite the hostility of some of its guests toward the energy source.

Speaking at a pre-summit conclave organized by local media, Union Power Minister R.K. Singh answered criticism that his country is a large emitter of carbon dioxide from its use of fossil fuels, particularly coal.

Calling the criticism ridiculous, he said that

“you don’t decide on the emissions depending on the size of the country. A small island will be consuming huge quantities of energy per capita, yet its total emissions will be less. You have to talk about it in per capita terms … The narrative has to change.”

India’s per capita emissions are lowest among the top users of fossil fuels and much lower than the global average. This means many Indians continue to consume energy at a rate well below levels reached decades ago in the developed West.

G20 attendees will include the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany and others, whose leaders seek to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in developing nations even though coal and oil helped to produce western wealth in the Industrial Revolution.

“If you have an economy that is growing at 7%, electricity from coal will also grow,” the minister said. “We will meet the energy requirement for our growth because we have a right to grow. The hypocrisy of developed countries is amazing.”

Mr. Singh pointed out the inconvenient fact that renewables are not a realistic alternative to fossil fuels for generating large amounts of electricity. The requirement to back up wind and solar with batteries increases their cost by nearly fivefold, he said.

The cost of renewables is not just an issue in developing economies. Even in the wealthiest countries, wind and solar are notorious for increasing the overall cost of power.

Writer Michael Shellenberger argues that consumers have been bearing much of these costs. For example, he says that

“renewables had contributed to electricity prices rising 50% in Germany and five times more in California than in the rest of the U.S. despite generating just 17% of the state’s electricity.”

Availability and affordability of raw materials for batteries are also a growing concern. Contrary to popular claims that the prices of storage systems have declined, data show that their raw materials are becoming more expensive.

According to Energy Storage News,

“Lithium-ion battery pack prices have gone up 7% in 2022, marking the first time that prices have risen since BloombergNEF began its surveys in 2010. The finding that average pack prices for electric vehicles and battery energy storage systems have increased globally in real terms … confirms the consequences of what the industry has been confronted with in recent months.”

Given these uncertainties, countries like India will not commit to any ambitious renewable transition goals. This is evident, given how India has been increasing its dependency on fossil fuels while simultaneously increasing its renewable capacity.

While India may give outward signs of interest in renewable energy installations, it will not risk the cost of blackouts or stunted economic growth by overreliance on high-cost wind and solar energy.


About the author

Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, UK and resides in India.


This commentary was first published at Daily Caller, September 8, 2023.