NEWS RELEASE                                                                                        August 2019

Why can India Justify Coal-fired Power Plant Expansion?

India is expanding coal-fired power capacity and can justify it based on the Sustainability Universal Rating System.

India expects coal-fired power capacity to grow by 22 percent in three years. That’s according to the Chief Engineer at the country’s Federal Power Ministry, Ghanshyam Prasad, who Reuters reported as stating coal capacity is likely to reach 238 GW by 2022.

India’s Coal Minister, Pralhad Joshi previously said annual coal demand rose by 9.1 percentduring the year ending March 2019, noting the figure hit 991.35 million tons, driven primarily by utilities, which accounted for three-quarters of total demand. The anticipated growth is likely to affect efforts to cut emissions and could risk worsening already poor air quality. India’s electricity demand rose by 36 percent in the seven years up to April 2019, while coal-fired generation capacity during the period rose by three-quarters to 194.44GW.

Pralhad Joshi said, despite the growth rate in thermal capacity outpacing electricity consumption in the last few years, more coal-fired power plants will still be needed in the future to meet growth. He added: “If we have to meet demand and address the intermittencies we have with solar and wind, we have no choice but to keep depending on coal-based generation in the near future”

India must address the question of balancing the benefits to the world vs. the benefits to citizens of India. Cardinal Health contracted with McIlvaine to answer a similar question relative to single-use surgical garments. Should a hospital throw away surgical garments after each use or wash them?  Washing exposes local hospital clients to the risks of viruses in the water while manufacturing the garments generates CO2 somewhere. One risk is personal and immediate. The other risk is long term and general.

McIlvaine realized that it was necessary to develop a common metric to measure harm and good. This metric is labeled Quality Enhanced Life Days (QELD). It is described in a hospital magazine article  In terms of decision making, QELD is radically different from the accepted medical metric Quality Adjusted Life Years  (QALY).

Let’s say an Indian without electricity sleeps more hours at night. Without a large income he eats more fruit and vegetables and less ice cream and pizza. The Indian without electricity lives to age 90 while the Indian with electricity only lives to age 88. The QELD metric would rate the electricity option as superior while the QALY metric rates the “no electricity” scenario as superior. It is only common sense. Would you rather be in solitary confinement for the next 50 years or only live 40 years longer leading your present life?

The quality of life has to be taken into account in any government policy. If coal-fired power can give reliable electricity to millions 10 years earlier than a plan that excludes coal, then the quality of life benefits have to be taken into consideration. Discounted future value has to be considered. The millionaire in the U.S. setting up a trust fund for his grandchildren enhances his life quality with this sacrifice. The Indian grandfather worried about the basic needs of his grandchildren will take satisfaction from making life better for them now. Since many of the negative impacts of greenhouse gases are long term, there is the necessity to realize that the discounted future value is dependent on the personal QELD of the individual.

It would be possible for the Indian government  to estimate the cumulative QELD for all Indians for any policy and then choose the one with the greatest aggregate QELD. Bob McIlvaine welcomes your thoughts on this metric. You can reach him at 847 784 0013, cell 847 226 2391 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.