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The state of energy efficiency in Indian cities written by Paloma Sengupta, published in October 14, 2019

On 9 July, 2019, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) and Central Public Works Department (CPWD) signed a MoU to make 150 buildings energy efficient, which would save almost 50 million units per annum. The Power Ministry made a statement that in the first stage of this MoU, approximately 150 buildings would be taken under a star rating scheme, which in would turn promote energy efficiency in the CPWD buildings.


As per the MoU, BEE and CPWD will be collaborating on promoting designs and construction of the energy conservation building Code (ECBC) which will be compliant with new buildings, as well as star rated buildings managed by CPWD with no registration or renewal fee. This will be a major step in generating awareness on energy efficiency in buildings.


Looking at the present scenario, city leaders need a better understanding of the concept of energy efficiency and need to remove barriers and start building capacities to acquire, adapt and implement strategies that are energy efficient along with technological support. A holistic approach should be adopted to generate energy efficient improvements in urban context.


Building energy efficiency in India


On average, buildings can consume about 40% of a city&rsquos energy and therefore have significant potential for energy savings with a wide range of options. Cities can adopt relatively low-cost and modulated measures to improve building envelope (eg, white roofs, sun shading, and weather stripping), electrical appliances, and office equipment in the beginning.


The revised energy conservation building code (ECBC) was launched in 2017. This was developed by the Ministry of power and BEE. The code basically prescribes the energy performance standards for the commercial buildings to reduce energy consumption thereby limiting the carbon growth.


The energy efficiency preparedness index was prepared in a collaborative effort by BEE (Bureau of Energy Efficiency) and Niti Ayog. This index focused on the implementation of clean energy projects in various states along with the energy efficiency targets. In this index, Kerala and Rajasthan hold the top position followed by Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab and Rajasthan. It mainly focused on the sector specific achievement of the particular state, where in Kerala received a high rating in its construction sector. This was done with 63 indicators across various sectors like building, industry, municipality, transport and agriculture. This will eventually help in implementing national energy efficiency initiatives in states which in turn will help in achieving the goals on energy security, access and climate change.


Need for energy conservation for residential buildings in urban areas


Population and economic growth clubbed with rapid urbanisation drive a massive demand for the construction of buildings in India wherein two thirds of the building structures that will exist by the year 2030 are yet to be built. Here, the residential sector plays a key role as its electricity consumption is projected to increase seven fold from 2012 to 2032, thus becoming the largest consumer of electricity by 2032.


These future developments offer great opportunity for city development experts to generate energy and cost savings mechanism over the upcoming decades through the implementation of energy efficiency features for newly constructed buildings.


Recently, the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power and Renewable Energy, Shri Raj Kumar Singh announced the launch of &ldquothe energy efficiency label for Residential Buildings&rdquo on the sidelines of the conference of Ministers for Power, New & Renewable Energy of States & Union Territories. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has developed this label for residential buildings to provide information to consumers about the energy efficiency program standard of the homes to be built across India.


The prime objective of this labeling program is to create an instrument for comparison while deciding home prices in the future. This also aims to provide a benchmark to compare one house over other based on the energy efficiency standards which will in turn create a consumer-driven market transformation solution for energy efficiency in the housing sector. Technologies like efficient cooling systems having sensors, which will automatically adjust the room temperature, thereby saving energy. Green buildings will have smarter lighting system that will automatically switch off when no one is inside the room. Such solutions will reduce energy bills for home buyers in future. The use of energy efficient LED&rsquos and CFL&rsquos, will also help to make the buildings green and different from conventional ones. Further, consumers will recieve incentives for buying such energy efficient houses across India. A number of municipal corporations (like Pimpri Chinchwad & Nashik) offer tax and premium rebates for such buildings along with property tax discounts for both buyer and developers. As per BEE, with the implementation of the energy efficiency label for residential buildings, energy savings is estimated to be up to 40 percent over traditional houses with annual savings of 90 billion units by the year 2030.


Inclusive energy efficiency transformation will maximise cost effectiveness and also potential savings. The newly designed buildings could adopt energy efficient design standards that would reduce the life cycle cost of buildings.


In the case of India, green buildings are emerging: there are three primary rating systems GRIHA (which evaluates the environmental performance of a building holistically over its entire life cycle), LEED (a US based rating system) and BEE (The Bureau of Energy Efficiency formed under the Energy Conservation Act of 2001). The various rating systems should be made consistent for the ease of awareness as well as universal acceptability within the country. As green building structures ensures efficient use of natural resources with minimum generation of non-degradable waste, it is imperative that sustainability is mainstreamed in the building sector as it is emerging as one of the major contributors to GHGs (green house gas).


Policy level initiatives by the public sector


Indian buildings are silent power guzzlers. As Indian cities grow, building energy demand will surely surge. Residential and commercial structures together consumed nearly a third (32%) of the country&rsquos total electricity in 2016 [1]. As per the estimation done by the policy agency Niti Ayog, the energy demand from India&rsquos buildings will increase by more than 800 percent by the year 2047 as compared to 2012. If this continues the country will face higher energy costs and extremely high consumption of decades. This will also have adverse effect on the air pollution worsening the impact of climate change. Hence there is a need for better building efficiency and programme which should be incorporated by setting up of various parameters for builders, designers and architects to integrate renewable energy sources in building design.


Working in a team of city development experts, I would like to pitch the idea of building efficiency in cities that can reduce expenses for lower income residents while curbing emissions. This can further supply energy to a greater number of people. Further, initiatives can be taken to engage public and private sector innovators to develop test and scale energy efficiency solution, which may involve developing of new financial models and promote better approaches for the integration of distributed energy systems at a building and community level.


It has been observed that the buildings that meet the requirements of ECBC (Energy Conservation Building Code) are almost 17 to 42 % more efficient than the conventional buildings, which shows a tremendous potential in terms of energy savings. In order to have maximum effectiveness, the new code should be mandatory, and be incorporated in the municipal building bye-laws of the states. To achieve a comprehensive energy management there the capacity of the stakeholders involved in this entire process of making buildings energy efficient needs to be built. More effort should be made in making new buildings GRIHA certified by creating structures and designs which are energy efficient throughout a building's life-cycle,starting from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.


[1]As per the latest statistics published by the Ministry of Statistics, Planning and Implementation.


(The views expressed above belong to the author(s).)