India’s energy sector choices—options and implications of ambitious mitigation efforts


This article examines the choices that might be needed for India’s energy sector under alternative mitigation scenarios. The article draws on the CD-LINKS study—a collaborative EU project under which seven pathways based on different combinations of carbon budget (high and low) and policy implementation (early and late) were developed and examined. This study uses the MARKAL energy system model to develop these scenarios. The three broad strategies that emerge for India include decarbonisation of electricity, electrification of end-uses and improvement in energy efficiency. We conclude that by undertaking early action, India can potentially prevent carbon lock-in and leapfrog to renewables from coal in the power sector. However, early action scenarios exhibit higher cost than their delayed action counterparts. Several other barriers and challenges also need to be addressed in order to enable large-scale uptake of low-carbon technologies. India may need to come up with innovative mechanisms to ensure a smooth and just transition for the economy.

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  1. 1.

    The details of the project can be found at

  2. 2.

    The current version of the model was developed with inputs from Ms. Aayushi Awasthy, Ms. Sugandha Chauhan, Mr. Kabir Sharma, Ms. Kamna W Mahendra and Mr. Aman Agrawal.

  3. 3.

    The time horizon of the model in TERI (2006) extended from 2001 to 2031. However, the overall structure of the model is similar to that in this study.

  4. 4.

    World Population Prospects, 2019 estimates India’s population to range between 1.49 billion (low fertility) and 1.79 billion (high fertility) in 2050 (UNDESA 2019).

  5. 5.

    OECD forecasts India’s GDP growth at 5.1% between 2016 and 2051 (OECD 2018).

  6. 6.

    The global models assume GDP growth rate based on SSP2 “Middle-of-the-Road” Scenario (Mathur and Shekhar 2019).

  7. 7.

    The relatively higher share of emission reduction on the supply side is partly attributed to the emission accounting methodology of the model. Emissions from electricity are accounted on the supply side, while the end-use electricity-based technology is considered to be carbon neutral. Consequently, emission savings from demand sectors due to electrification are accounted on the supply side.

  8. 8.

    Electric pumps for irrigation are 1.8 times more efficient than their diesel counterparts; appliances used for electric cooking are 6–7 times more efficient than traditional biomass-based cookstoves.

  9. 9.

    We do not consider coal-based power plants with CCS in this study due to reasons discussed in Section 2.3.

  10. 10.

    Out of around 214.49 million households in India, 214.47 million households have been electrified as on 31 March 2020, and 18,734 households remain to be electrified (MOP 2019).

  11. 11.

    Low-carbon scenarios include INDCH, INDCL, NPiH and NPiL.

  12. 12.

    The discount rate used in this study is 10% which is based on opportunity cost with respect to alternative investment avenues.

  13. 13.

    Recent guidelines suggest that around 60–65% of steel produced in India by 2030 should be produced via the Basic Oxidation Furnace (BF-BOF) route (MOS 2017).


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This work is part of a project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 642147 (CD-LINKS).

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Correspondence to Swapnil Shekhar.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “National Low-Carbon Development Pathways” edited by Roberto Schaeffer, Valentina Bosetti, Elmar Kriegler, Keywan Riahi, Detlef van Vuuren, and John Weyant

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Mathur, R., Shekhar, S. India’s energy sector choices—options and implications of ambitious mitigation efforts. Climatic Change 162, 1893–1911 (2020).

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  • Climate mitigation pathways
  • India
  • Energy sector
  • NDC
  • Low carbon development
  • Energy system modelling