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India Solar Output Slowest in 6 Years Amid Scorching Heatwave

The world’s fastest growing major economy has prioritised coal to address a surge in power demand in recent years, underscoring the challenges it faces in weaning its economy off carbon

People shop for an air conditioner inside an electronics store in Mumbai, India
People shop for an air conditioner inside an electronics store in Mumbai, India. Photo: Reuters


Solar output in India grew at its slowest pace in six years in the first half of 2024 as a sweltering heatwave drove a surge in the country’s power demand and fuelled coal use.

Solar power generation rose to 63.6 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in the first half of 2024, according to data from Grid-India, up 14.7% compared with the same period last year.

That was far slower than the 26% growth in solar energy generation in the first half of 2023, following which India became the world’s third-largest producer of electricity from the sun.


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Meanwhile, electricity generated from coal grew 10.4% during six months ended June 30 outpacing overall power generation growth of 9.7% during the period.

India’s increasing reliance on coal came amid one the longest heatwaves to engulf the country, with temperatures crossing 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in some parts.

The heat wave — the worst in over a decade — led to a massive surge in power demand. Peak demand for power in India’s hot, arid northern plains hit a record last month amid the heat.

Demand for coal-based power rose by 7.3% for the fiscal to an all-time high, the Indian government said last month.


Coal to outpace renewables

India expects annual power output for the fiscal year through March 2025 to grow at fastest in over a decade.

The world’s fastest growing major economy has prioritised coal to address a surge in power demand in recent years, with coal-fired power output last year outpacing renewable energy output for the first time since the Paris accord in 2015.

That pattern is likely to continue in the current fiscal, with the Narendra Modi-led Indian government forecasting an 8.9% rise in coal-fired power output over the year.

That will outpace renewable energy growth of 8.2%.

Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move, the Indian government has asked power companies to order equipment worth $33 billion this year to fast track capacity additions of coal-fired power in the years ahead.

The rush to add fresh coal-fired plants comes as the country struggles to meet high power demand with the existing fleet in non-solar hours.

It also underscores challenges faced by the world’s third largest greenhouse gas-emitter in weaning its economy off carbon, as it attempts to ensure energy security to around 1.4 billion Indians.


growth in india power output by source
Graph: Reuters


Economic bump

Aside from the heatwaves, a post-pandemic uptick in economic activity is also fuelling the surge in India’s power demand.

The south Asian nation’s fuel use patterns since emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic have largely been in line with trends in the region. Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Bangladesh have all fired up coal for generating inexpensive power.

But analysts expect renewable generation to grow faster from the next fiscal year, as tendering and commissioning of green energy projects have started picking up steam.

India saw an 18% increase in new utility-scale projects in the fiscal ended March 2024, according to JMK Research.

Moody’s unit ICRA expects renewable energy installations to rise by over a third to 25 gigawatts (GW) this fiscal year ending March 2025.


  • Reuters, with additional inputs from Vishakha Saxena


Also read:

India Now the World’s Third Biggest Generator of Solar Power

Asia is Warming Faster, Hit Hardest by Climate Disasters: WMO

India’s Modi in $9bn Push for Rooftop Solar Ahead of Poll – Express

India’s Power Play to Become a Global Solar Force – Hindu

China to ‘Dominate’ Global Solar Supply Chain For Next Decade

Oil Producers, Carmakers Knew of Climate Risk in 1954 – Guardian


Vishakha Saxena

Vishakha Saxena is the Multimedia and Social Media Editor at Asia Financial. She has worked as a digital journalist since 2013, and is an experienced writer and multimedia producer. As a trader and investor, she is keenly interested in new economy, emerging markets and the intersections of finance and society. You can write to her at [email protected]


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