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Indian Power Giant Still Needs More Coal Despite Green Pledge

India’s top power producer NTPC Ltd. is boosting its coal-fired capacity even as it commits billions of dollars to green energy, highlighting the country’s dilemma of balancing energy security and hitting climate goals.

The state-run company and its units will issue orders for 16.8 gigawatts of new coal plants over the next three years, Finance Director Jaikumar Srinivasan said on an earnings call Tuesday. The new plants, along with 10 gigawatts already under construction, will expand its coal capacity by about 45% from current levels.

The pledge comes on the same day as NTPC said it signed a preliminary agreement to invest some $9.6 billion in green energy projects in the country.

While India is working toward meeting its clean-energy targets, rising electricity demand has forced policymakers to double down on coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel. For NTPC, the swelling coal pipeline marks a reversal of an earlier policy that sought to limit the use of fossil fuels and increase the share of renewables to account for almost half of capacity.

To support the new plants, the New Delhi-based company will also expand its coal-mining output, aiming for 50 million tons of annual production in three years.

India recorded a peak electricity demand of 243 gigawatts last year, exceeding the power ministry’s projections of 229 gigawatts and prompting the ministry to push for more coal power. Maximum demand is expected to jump to 366 gigawatts by 2032.