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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

India's new coal geography: Coastal transformations, imported fuel and state - business collaboration in the transition to more fossil fuel energy

Oskarsson, Patrik; Nielsen, Kenneth Bo; Lahiri-Dutt, Kuntala; Roy, Brototi


The advance of renewable energy around the world has kindled hopes that coal-based energy is on the way out. Recent data, however, make it clear that growing coal consumption in India coupled with its continued use in China keeps coal-based energy at 40 percent of the world’s heat and power generation. To address the consolidation of coal-based power in India, this article analyses an energy transition to, rather than away from, carbon-intensive energy over the past two decades. We term this transition India’s new coal geography; the new coal geography comprises new ports and thermal power plants run by private-sector actors along the coastline and fuelled by imported coal. This geography runs parallel to, yet is distinct from, India’s ‘old’ coal geography, which was based on domestic public-sector coal mining and thermal power generation. We understand the development of coastal thermal power as an outcome of long-term electrical energy shortages and significant public controversy within the old coal geography. By analysing the making of the new coal geography at a national level, and scrutinizing its localised manifestation and impact through a case study of Goa state, we outline the significant infrastructural investment and policy work of a dispersed network of public- and private-sector actors that slowly enabled this new coal energy avatar. We argue that the enormous effort to establish India’s new coal geography further entrenches the country’s reliance on coal. The result is that for India, energy security is a choice between domestic and imported coal.


resource geography; energy transition; coal energy infrastructure; energy security; India

Published in

Energy Research and Social Science
2021, Volume: 73, article number: 101903

    SLU Authors

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG7 Affordable and clean energy
    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Economic Geography

    Publication Identifiers


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