• P-ISSN 0974-6846 E-ISSN 0974-5645

Indian Journal of Science and Technology


Indian Journal of Science and Technology

Year: 2021, Volume: 14, Issue: 33, Pages: 2684-2710

Original Article

Electricity Generation Options for India-A Critical Evaluation

Received Date:01 May 2021, Accepted Date:25 September 2021, Published Date:18 October 2021


Objectives : This review is to study the electricity generating energy sources in the world at large and India in particular, considering the impact on the environment and arrive at the energy sources which India needs to focus in the future. Methods : The world data on the various aspects like greenhouse emissions, deaths, health effects, levelized cost of electricity, energy return on investment, water, and land requirements for various energy sources have been studied. Findings : The need for reduction of energy from coal is clear as its emissions affect the health and contribute to climate changes. The alternative large source appears to be nuclear. Wind and solar power with low emissions of Greenhouse gases are also favored. However, wind is seasonal and solar power can be generated only during daytime which leads to low-capacity factor (~20%) compared to 32% for nuclear and 42% for Coal plants. This has also impact on the grid management. The environmental impacts of Nuclear, Coal, Solar, Wind and Hydro have been brought out in detail. More weightage is given to sources that have a higher growth rate based on the energy return on investment and environmental impacts rather than capital cost. The accidents of nuclear reactors in USA, Russia and Japan have shaken the public faith in nuclear power. The real fact that the impacts on the health of the people due to release of radiation in these accidents is negligible has been brought out. Comparison between natural and manmade radiation has been brought out. Finally, the applicability of energy sources in the context of India are discussed and a ranking approach arrived at. Recommendations : Nuclear has been favored based on the availability of natural uranium and thorium in the country and long-term energy security. Solar and wind need to be deployed, wherever possible, in view of the slow introduction of nuclear reactors due to high capital cost. Import of nuclear designs from abroad is also recommended to meet the electricity demands as a stop gap arrangement. Novelty : This study has taken a ranking approach considering most important metrices and has applied to India.

Keywords: Pollution, coal, hydro, biomass, nuclear, risk, benefits


  1. Rashad SM. Comparative Assessment of Environmental and Health Impacts of Electricity Generating Systems. International Conference on Hazardous Waste Sources. 1998;p. 12–16.
  2. Goedkoop MJ, Heijungs R, Goedkoop MJ, Schryver AD, Struijs J, Zelm RV. Ruimte en Milieu Ministerie van Volkshuisvesting, Ruimtelijke Ordening en Milieubeheer. 2013. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/302559709_ReCiPE_2008_A_life_cycle_impact_assessment_method_which_comprises_harmonised_category_indicators_at_the_midpoint_and_the_endpoint_level
  3. Wang JJ, Jing YY, Zhang CF, Zhao JH. Review on multi-criteria decision analysis aid in sustainable energy decision-making. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 2009;13(9):2263–2278. doi: 10.1016/j.rser.2009.06.021
  4. Electricity from Renewable Resources: Status, Prospects, and Impediments. Washington, DC. The National Academies Press. 2010.
  5. Vidal O, Le Boulzec H, François C. Modelling the material and energy costs of the transition to low-carbon energy. EPJ Web of Conferences. 2018;189:00018. doi: 10.1051/epjconf/201818900018
  6. Dorning MA, Diffendorfer JE, Loss SR, Bagstad KJ. Review of indicators for comparing environmental effects across energy sources. Environmental Research Letters. 2019;14(10):103002. doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab402d
  7. Mitavachan H, Srinivasan J. Is land really a constraint for the utilization of solar energy in India. Current Science. 2012;103(2):163–168. Available from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/24084995
  8. Ma K, Zhang Y, Ruan M, Guo J, Chai T. Land Subsidence in a Coal Mining Area Reduced Soil Fertility and Led to Soil Degradation in Arid and Semi-Arid Regions. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019;16(20):3929. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16203929
  9. Tadmore J. Radioactivity from coal-fired power plants: A review. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity. 1986;4(3):177–204. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/0265-931X(86)90010-X
  10. Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd. Dam and Reservoir. Available from: https://sardarsarovardam.org/dam-reservoir.aspx
  11. Michaelides EES. Alternative Energy Sources. (pp. 319-320) Springer. 2012.
  12. IAEA-TECDOC-892. Proceedings of an IAEA Advisory Group meeting/Workshop Comparison of Energy Sources in terms of their full Energy Chain Emissions Factors of Greenhouse Gases. In: IAEA. 1996.
  13. Mama CN, Okafor FO. Siltation In Reservoirs. Nigerian Journal of Technology. 2011;30(1).
  14. Bielecki A, Ernst S, Skrodzka W, Wojnicki I. Concentrated Solar Power Plants with Molten Salt Storage: Economic Aspects and Perspectives in the European Union. International Journal of Photoenergy. 2019;2019:1–10. doi: 10.1155/2019/8796814
  15. Wood C, Drewes K. Vast Solar: improving performance and reducing cost and risk using high temperature modular arrays and sodium heat transfer fluid. 2019. Available from: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Vast-Solar%3A-improving-performance-and-reducing-cost-Wood-Drewes/0d51d1a9a3d686d95a619d086639f79db33b3348
  16. Tripathi RM, Sahoo SK, Jha VN, Khan AH, Puranik VD. Assessment of environmental radioactivity at uranium mining, processing and tailings management facility at Jaduguda, India. Applied Radiation and Isotopes. 2008;66(11):1666–1670. doi: 10.1016/j.apradiso.2007.12.019
  17. Wattal PK. Back end of Indian nuclear fuel cycle-A road to sustainability. Progress in Nuclear Energy. 2017;101:133–145. doi: 10.1016/j.pnucene.2017.03.004
  18. Karkhanis PP, Agarwal K. Impact Testing of High-Level Waste Canisters. BARC Newsletter. 2016;p. 47110806. Available from: https://inis.iaea.org/search/search.aspx?orig_q=RN:47110806
  19. Understanding Cancer, 2016. American Association for Cancer Research. Available from: https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/cancer_types_treatments
  20. URF. Energy And Land Use. International renewable energy Agency IRENA& UN Convention to Combat, desertification, . 2017. Available from: http://iinas.org/tl_files/iinas/downloads/land/IINAS_2017_UNCCD-IRENA_Energy-Land_paper.pdf
  21. Uchiyama Y. Life cycle assessment of renewable energy generation technologies. IEEJ Transactions on Electrical and Electronic Engineering. 2007;2(1):44–48. doi: 10.1002/tee.20107
  22. Neumeyer C, Goldston R. Dynamic EROI Assessment of the IPCC 21st Century Electricity Production Scenario. Sustainability. 2016;8(5):421. Available from: https://dx.doi.org/10.3390/su8050421
  23. Meldrum J, Nettles-Anderson S, Heath G, Macknick J. Life cycle water use for electricity generation: a review and harmonization of literature estimates. Environmental Research Letters. 2013;8(1):015031. Available from: https://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/015031
  24. Ueckerdt F, Hirth L, Luderer G, Edenhofer O. System LCOE: What are the costs of variable renewables? Energy. 2013;63:61–75. doi: 10.1016/j.energy.2013.10.072
  25. Grover RB. Role of Nuclear Energy in India’s Energy Mix. IANCAS Bulletin. 2006.
  26. Kamerschen DR, Thompson HG. Nuclear and Fossil Fuel Steam Generation of Electricity: Differences and Similarities. Southern Economic Journal. 1993;60(1):14. doi: 10.2307/1059927
  27. Kumar R, Ojha K, Ahmadi MH, Raj R, Aliehyaei M, Ahmadi A, et al. A review status on alternative arrangements of power generation energy resources and reserve in India. International Journal of Low-Carbon Technologies. 2020;15(2):224–240. doi: 10.1093/ijlct/ctz066
  28. Vishwanathan SS, Garg A. Energy system transformation to meet NDC, 2 °C, and well below 2 °C targets for India. Climatic Change. 2020;162(4):1877–1891. doi: 10.1007/s10584-019-02616-1
  29. Mahadeva R, Iyer. The Saga of Atomic Energy in India- Why is Nuclear Power still Subcritical?. Delhi. Authors Press. 2020.


© 2021 Vaidyanathan. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Published By Indian Society for Education and Environment (iSee)


Subscribe now for latest articles and news.