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There is no energy trajectory for India that does not utilize coal: Benjamin Sporton, World Coal Ass

Renewable energy generation may have grown at a rapid pace in India in the past few years but coal will continue to occupy a significant role in the country's energy mix for a long time to come, Benjamin Sporton, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of World Coal Association told ETEnergyWorld in an interview. Edited excerpts.. What is your view of the coal sector and the larger energy sector in India? What, according to you, are the defining trends? A key trend is the growth of renewable energy technologies in India and a very significant growth in solar in particular. We have seen the cost of solar coming down quite a lot. There is a view, both internationally and in India, that because solar has become so cheap, India does not need coal any more. This is a gross misunderstanding. India’s power sector’s growth is around 7 per cent. And it needs to be sustained at a rate of over 4.5 per cent over the next 20 years. To meet this power growth, India needs not just growth in solar but quite a lot of growth in coal as well. So, it is not an either-or situation. Also, while solar cost has come down, it is not available on a 24X7 basis. Another view is that the cost of solar has come down so much that it may not be sustainable at this low level. Also, we need to remember that solar has grown in India not just because of lower prices but also because the government is promoting its “electrification for all” strategy. And solar is a very good way of doing this. The growth in solar is huge but it is happening from a very small base. India is also focusing on its “Make in India” campaign. The government is trying to ramp up the manufacturing base of the country. And that requires affordable, reliable, stable electricity supply. The only source of that in India at the moment is coal. So, as the middle class grows further and we try and develop better paying manufacturing jobs in India, a reliabl