India has emerged as a major energy producing and consuming country, and it is also one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. With a doubling of its energy use since the turn of the century, and still a relatively modest per capita energy consumption, India faces significant challenges when addressing the low-carbon energy transformation. On the one hand, its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are at least partially ambitious, i.e. with respect to renewable energies (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, 2015), foreseeing not less than 100 GW of solar capacities by 2022, and 175 GW of renewables overall (2016: ~ 35 GW). On the other hand, the future use of coal is uncertain; the draft plan by the Central Authority of India stating that beyond 2022 no more additional coal plants would be needed in the country (Central Electricity Authority of India (CEA), 2017).There is an increasing state of literature on different decarbonization pathways for India. These range from the IEA’s “new policies” (NPS) and “450ppm” scenarios (International Energy Agency, 2015) to low-carbon scenarios by Indian scholars such as IRADE (2014) and Singh (2017), to scenarios targeting a 100% renewable energy system for India by 2050, such as Jacobsen (2016) and Gulagi et al. (2017). In this article, we analyze alternative pathways to decarbonizing the Indian energy system until 2050, using an energy system model adapted to the specifics of the Indian electricity, heating, and transportation sectors.