Opportunities for Greater Energy Savings in India's Growing Cities

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Guest Blog Post by Bhaskar Deol

Residents of India's capital city, New Delhi, welcomed the New Year with colder than usual temperatures. As leading building energy efficiency expert, Dr. Satish Kumar, connects the cold discomfort experienced every winter by millions of Delhi's residents with the poor energy efficiency of buildings. Poorly constructed buildings are not only uncomfortable for occupants, but also make poor economic sense since they take significant amount of energy to keep warm in the winters and cool during the summers - driving up electricity demand in energy-scarce regions.

So, it's no surprise that energy efficiency is high on the agenda for Indian government: collaboration on energy efficiency has been a key feature of announcements by Prime Minister Modi in recent bilateral meetings with Japan, Russia, and will high on the agenda for discussion during the visit to India by US President Obama later for Republic Day celebrations.

Several leading Indian states are making efforts to encourage energy efficiency in buildings. Over a dozen states are currently at advanced stages of incorporating Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) - a code that sets minimum energy efficiency performance standards for large commercial buildings - into building bylaws. This would ensure newly constructed buildings are energy efficient, locking in savings for years to come, while providing superior comfort to occupants.

The Indian market is ripe for transformation. A recently held a webinar by the Clean Energy Solutions Center showcased progress made by states on improving energy efficiency in buildings through ECBC implementation. The webinar included detailed presentations on progress being made by states of Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Experts at Malaviya National Institute of Technology in Jaipur, Rajasthan used real world data to demonstrate that a building currently under operation at the institute, built to ECBC specifications, achieves 22% savings compared to a standard building. NRDC highlighted progress made by Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on implementing the ECBC. These states are employing a two stage building design and construction approval process, with compliance being ensured by use of third party assessors.

Leading real estate developers and building owners recognize the benefits of energy efficient buildings. A recent event on building retrofits showcased potential energy savings and sustainable design opportunities in existing building stock. Take for example, the NRDC case study on Mahindra Towers - a multi-storied office building in Mumbai. After the retrofit, Mahindra Towers reduced its annual energy consumption by 14%, and had an attractive financial payback period of less than 6 months to recover costs of efficiency improvement.

A case study on Paharpur Business Centre demonstrates how an office building in Delhi achieved indoor air quality far superior to outdoor conditions, while simultaneously reducing energy consumption. It achieved a five star rating for energy efficiency from India's Bureau of Energy Efficiency and is certified LEED Platinum. Similarly, the Indira Paryavaran Bhawan - a net-zero energy building in the heart of New Delhi, and home to Indian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change - is unique as it combines cutting edge energy efficiency with on-site solar energy generation to bring its net annual energy footprint down to zero.

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Image: Indira Paryavaran Bhawan, New Delhi © Central Public Works Department Government of India

Buildings like Mahindra Towers, Paharpur Business Centre and Indira Paryavaran Bhawan demonstrate that with the right design, it is possible to achieve the twin goals of occupant comfort and energy efficiency simultaneously for new as well as existing buildings.

With the Prime Minister's recently announced goal of installing 100,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2022 and the newly released solar guidelines, India is taking action to meet its growing demand for energy. As much as 40% of this goal would be achieved through deployment of rooftop solar - as demonstrated by Indira Paryavaran Bhawan. Efficiency in buildings move Indian cities forward towards cleaner energy resources with fewer emissions and clean air while also increasing energy access and energy security.

Bhaskar Deol is a clean energy expert that works with NRDC's India team as a consultant based in New Delhi.