Coal Dependence, Energy Security, and Human Security in India

Author: Mihir Vikrant Kaulgud 

Editors: Soumya Singhal and Ritwiz Sarma


This paper investigates India’s increasing dependence on coal to meet its rising energy consumption. This study examines the current justifications for this trend, considering how coal is intertwined with India’s politics and economic aspirations. Rationales for using more coal remain rooted in an inadequate short-term, supply-centric notion of energy security. However, the paper suggests that delaying the renewable energy transition and increasing coal ‘lock-in’ harms India’s energy security and human security in the long run. Given the entrenchment of coal within the Indian energy system, the paper highlights the need for a transition discourse where continuing legacies of coal dependence are re-evaluated in light of coal’s adverse effects on climate change, energy security, and human security. 

Keywords: Coal, Coal Dependence, Energy Security, Just Transition, Carbon Lock-In



Despite commitments to phasing down coal in favour of renewable energy sources, India has steadily increased its coal production (see figure 1) and imports (see figure 2). The International Energy Agency [IEA] (2021a) notes that India has been increasing its thermal coal imports and forecasts that national coal consumption will grow at an average annual rate of 3.9% to reach 1.18 billion tonnes by 2024 (IEA, 2021b).