Rahul Tongia's research focuses on infrastructure and technology for sustainable development, especially for underserved regions such as India or Africa. Using quantitative policy and decision analysis, he has focused on the Information and Communications as well as the energy/power domains. In addition to engineering-economic analyses, his work also deals with broader policy issues such as security, international collaboration (especially US-India), and technology analysis and transfer.
Areas of Expertise (5)
Sustainable Energy Technology
Media Appearances (3)
Can Developing Economies Have High Growth Without Using Coal? A Debate. | Journal Reports
The Wall Street Journal online
In the debate that follows, Jason Bordoff, co-founding dean of the Columbia Climate School, argues that developing countries can eliminate coal and still reach economic growth targets. The opposing view, that coal will have to remain part of the energy mix for those nations to reach growth targets, is argued by Rahul Tongia, senior fellow at the Centre for Social and Economic Progress, a New Delhi-based nonprofit think tank, and senior fellow (nonresident) at the Brookings Institution.
Can natural gas play the role of a ‘bridge’ fuel in India’s energy transition? | Guest Article
Financial Express online
India’s share of gas stands at just over 6 percent, low compared to the global average, and only aggressive growth in gas can bring India closer to its target.
Old King Coal is Dead – Long Live The King
Saur Energy online
Coal is the dominant source of energy in India because it’s locally available and has historically b...
Industry Expertise (1)
Carnegie Mellon University: Ph.D., Engineering and Public Policy 1998
Brown University: B.S., Electrical Engineering 1995
Inequality in air pollution mortality from power generation in IndiaEnvironmental Research Letters
2022 India's coal-heavy electricity system is the world's third largest and a major emitter of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, it remains a focus of decarbonization and air pollution control policy. Considerable heterogeneity exists between states in India in terms of electricity demand, generation fuel mix, and emissions. However, no analysis has disentangled the expected, state-level spatial differences and interactions in air pollution mortality under current and future power sector policies in India.
Historical wind power in Karnataka differs from predictive models: A granular analysis of performance across climatology, technology, and locationEnergy for Sustainable Development
2023 Wind power constitutes one of the largest forms of renewable energy in India. Many operational models have predicted wind energy in India, but most rely on satellite reanalysis data. In contrast, this paper examines historical generation data at an unprecedented granularity to understand its potential and variance. We find actual wind capacity factor (CF) during the Indian Summer Monsoon to be less than half that predicted in NREL’s recent landmark production cost modeling study.
Subnational implications from climate and air pollution policies in India’s electricity sectorScience
2022 Emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants in India are important contributors to climate change and health damages. This study estimates current emissions from India’s electricity sector and simulates the state-level implications of climate change and air pollution policies. We find that (i) a carbon tax results in little short-term emissions reductions because there is not enough dispatchable lower emission spare capacity to substitute coal; (ii) moving toward regional dispatch markets rather than state-level dispatch decisions will not lead to emissions reductions; (iii) policies that have modest emissions effects at the national level nonetheless have disparate state-level emissions impacts; and (iv) pricing or incentive mechanisms tied to production or consumption will result in markedly different costs to states.
Sustained cost declines in solar PV and battery storage needed to eliminate coal generation in IndiaEnvironmental Research Letters
2022 Unabated coal power in India must be phased out by mid-century to achieve global climate targets under the Paris Agreement. Here we estimate the costs of hybrid power plants—lithium-ion battery storage with wind and solar PV—to replace coal generation. We design least cost mixes of these technologies to supply stylized baseload and load-following generation profiles in three Indian states—Karnataka, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu. Our analysis shows that availability of low cost capital, solar PV capital costs of at least $250 kW− 1, and battery storage capacity costs at least 50% cheaper than current levels will be required to phase out existing coal power plants.
Current and future estimates of marginal emission factors for Indian power generationEnvironmental Science & Technology
2022 Emission factors from Indian electricity remain poorly characterized, despite known spatial and temporal variability. Limited publicly available emissions and generation data at sufficient detail make it difficult to understand the consequences of emissions to climate change and air pollution, potentially missing cost-effective policy designs for the world’s third largest power grid. We use reduced-form and full-form power dispatch models to quantify current (2017–2018) and future (2030–2031) marginal CO2, SO2, NOX, and PM2.5 emission factors from Indian power generation.