A coal mine in India, the fifth largest producer of coal in the world. Image: Environmental Change and Security Program/Flickr
Coal India—a government-back coal company–is reportedly closing 37 of its "unviable" mines in the next year to cut back on losses.India is primed for an energy revolution. The country's ongoing economic growth has been powered by fossil fuels in the past, making it one of the top five largest energy consumers in the world. But it has also invested heavily in renewables, and the cost of solar power is now cheaper than ever. In some instances, villages in India have avoided coal-powered electricity altogether, and "leapfrogged" straight to solar power.
Partly because of this shift, Coal India, which produced 554.13 million tonnes of coal in the 2016-2017 fiscal year (for comparison, the largest company in the US produced about 175 million in 2015) saw demand dip in recent months. This is not the first sign that coal is no longer the most economic option for emerging economies like India and China. Earlier this year, the heavily industrial state of Gujarat cancelled its proposed coal power plants. And a few weeks ago The Hindu reported that Coal India had identified another 65 mines in losses.India's energy situation is changing so fast that even expert predictions about its switch to renewables are wildly off: A study from last year claimed India would be building more than 300 coal plants in the next 10 years, but experts said the data was already outdated by the time the report was published, and that India would be moving toward renewables instead.
"For the first time, solar is cheaper than coal in India and the implications this has for transforming global energy markets are profound," said Tim Buckley, Director of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) in a statement.The decline of Coal India, which produces 80 percent of the country's domestic coal output, is more evidence that we are collectively moving away from fossil fuels as cleaner, renewable technologies become more widely available. This reality is important to grasp in every country where coal used to be king. Even as Donald Trump promises coal jobs, let's remember that those jobs don't are unlikely to come back. "One of the most popular mines today employs [a couple hundred people] who are doing the work that used to be done by thousands," Jerome Scott, a left-leaning activist with the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, said at the Left Forum earlier this month in Manhattan. "That's the fundamental contradiction within capitalism—it's being disrupted because they're able to hire fewer and fewer workers."And for countries like India, where companies like Coal India employ more than 300,000 people, training people to work in more viable energy markets will be increasingly important to provide sustainable livelihoods. Luckily, it looks like the solar industry will have some job openings.Get six of our favorite Motherboard stories every day by signing up for our newsletter .
We are collectively moving away from fossil fuels