High-tension power lines are pictured outside a Tata Power sub station in the suburbs of Mumbai

High-tension power lines are pictured outside a Tata Power sub station in the suburbs of Mumbai, India, August 8, 2017. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade – RC1F247F86F0 Acquire Licensing Rights

LITTLETON, Colorado, Sept 6 (Reuters) – India’s power sector emissions from fossil fuels exceeded those of Europe’s for the first time in April, May and June of this year, and are on course to permanently eclipse Europe’s power pollution totals due to diverging trends in fossil fuel use.

In Europe, cuts to coal and natural gas use alongside increases in renewable energy generation have trimmed total power emissions by 11% in the opening seven months of the year from the same period in 2022, data from think-tank Ember shows.

At the same time, India’s power emissions climbed 4.5% to new highs on the back of record use of high-polluting coal, which generates roughly 75% of India’s electricity.

Europe vs India power sector emissions from fossil fuels

Over the first seven months of 2023, Europe’s total fossil-powered emissions amounted to 667 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and equivalent gases, Ember data shows, which exceeds India’s 609 million tonnes total for the same period.

But India’s monthly emissions totals were higher than Europe’s from April through June, when Europe lowered coal-fired power utilization to the lowest since at least 2015 as part of region-wide efforts to permanently curb fossil fuel reliance.

If Europe continues to pare fossil fuel use while India extends its heavy reliance on coal for power, India’s power sector emissions will likely consistently exceed all of Europe’s within the coming years, and emerge as a leading global source of climate-warming pollution.


During the April-June window, when India’s emissions exceeded Europe’s, India’s total power use levels rose on high demand for air conditioning in the hottest months of the year.

At the same time, the April-June slot represented the low point of power use in Europe, before residential demand for cooling picked up and as the region’s industrial power use remained muted due to high overall energy costs.

Nonetheless, India’s rare bout of emissions dominance offers a likely glimpse into future emissions trends, as India’s needs for low-cost energy look set to keep climbing just as Europe’s efforts to transition power systems away from fossil fuels gather further momentum.

India vs Europe electricity generation by power source

Indeed, just this week India’s government asked power plants to expedite maintenance work and increase output from gas-fired plants as part of emergency steps to prevent electricity outages following record electricity demand levels in August.

Meanwhile, current European Union president Spain has proposed amendments to the bloc’s electricity market that would extend renewable energy output and resolve disputes over state aid for new clean-energy projects.

These conflicting approaches to energy sector management reflect the starkly different developmental phases of each market.

Europe’s fully developed economies have the capital and political willpower to aggressively pivot away from fossil fuels following the disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and are prepared to bear the commercial consequences of switching out industrial energy sources.

India, by contrast, is in the midst of a strong economic expansion phase that is already straining national power grids, and leaves little scope for retooling power systems that remain overwhelmingly reliant on fossil fuels.

India’s government has established ambitious long-term goals for boosting renewable energy generation and lowering power sector emissions.

But it may take decades before India’s economy can accommodate an aggressive power sector overhaul that follows Europe’s lead and enables a steadily declining emissions path.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author, a columnist for Reuters.

Reporting By Gavin Maguire; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Opinions expressed are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of Reuters News, which, under the Trust Principles, is committed to integrity, independence, and freedom from bias.

Gavin Maguire is the Global Energy Transition Columnist. He was previously Asia Commodities and Energy editor.

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