(Bloomberg) -- Pralhad Joshi, who is credited with boosting Indian coal production to a record, has been appointed renewable energy minister, where he’ll be tasked with speeding adoption of solar and wind. 

The 61-year-old Bharatiya Janata Party lawmaker from the the southern state of Karnataka, was appointed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet over the weekend. He will also head the consumer affairs and public distribution ministry, the government said in a statement late Monday.

One of Joshi’s main challenges will be to accelerate the addition of new renewable power capacity. The world’s third-biggest emitter is facing an uphill task to hit a goal of nearly tripling clean power projects to 500 gigawatts by the end of the decade, with annual installations well short of what’s needed to meet the target.

Unlike his predecessor Raj Kumar Singh, who lost his parliamentary seat in Bihar, Joshi’s task will be complicated by not having the power ministry under his command. That will require deft coordination to ensure the transmission and distribution infrastructure keeps pace with the addition of solar and wind generation. 

“I expect renewables to be the future of India’s energy,” Joshi told reporters at his office on Tuesday. “It’s already contributing to our energy security and we’ll make sure to increase its share further.”

“It may seem paradoxical, but it can go a long way for India’s energy security if the minister is able to broaden the horizon and assess how much renewable energy can contribute,” said Aarti Khosla, a director at consultancy Climate Trends. “Making that shift from a traditional industry like coal is a huge opportunity, if seized well.” 

Over the past five years, Joshi worked to cut coal imports by raising domestic output as global prices surged. He eased terms of mine auctions to attract more private companies and pushed state miners to invest in expanding capacity. Still, imports of the fossil fuel, which accounts for nearly three-quarters of India’s power mix, rose to a three-year high in the year through March 2023, driven by surging electricity demand.   

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.