Energy Efficiency: The Path to Constructing Change in India

 Construction Noida India credit Bhaskar Deol 2012.jpg

With the costs of climate change increasing daily, we need the savings to be gained from energy efficiency more than ever. In India, the state of Andhra Pradesh just announced landmark energy efficiency standards that will adopt the national Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) statewide by early 2013, ensuring that buildings meet minimum energy efficiency standards when constructed or renovated. Hopefully more states will follow Andhra Pradesh and other leading states' example. This is critical in a time of rapid urbanization and skyrocketing energy demand and holds true for communities around the world. Energy efficiency is the fastest, cleanest, and cheapest way to significantly meet energy needs and increase energy security. NRDC in partnership with the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) has just released a report “Constructing Change: Accelerating Energy Efficiency in India’s Building Market” that identifies barriers to energy efficiency in India and puts forward actions to overcome those barriers for state and local governments, real estate developers and financial institutions.

This past summer, India experienced the world’s largest blackouts, revealing the severity of India’s energy crisis and leaving 700 million people without power.  India has also faced increasingly extreme heat events in recent years that — even in a country used to dealing with heat — have had a deadly impact, particularly on its more vulnerable populations. The combination of rising concerns about energy security and the economic, health and environmental impacts of climate change are being felt around the world. Just this week, the east coast of the United States was battered by a “superstorm” that heralds what we can expect from climate change. The violent weather patterns in the United States, including floods, droughts and wildfires have made climate change more difficult to deny and have caused public acceptance of the reality of climate change to increase significantly according to recent polls.

And how we handle energy and climate is not just an issue for each of our individual countries, but also for how we move forward together. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a recent speech on energy diplomacy said that energy is “a matter of national security and global stability. It’s at the heart of the global economy. It’s also an issue of democracy and human rights.” She also affirmed that “the transformation to cleaner energy is central to reducing the world’s carbon emissions and it is the core of a strong 21st century global economy.”

Our governments need to be working together to fight climate change. We need regulations and incentives in place to curb greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. We need safe and healthy sources of energy. Energy efficiency is a critical part of this package of solutions, especially in rapidly growing economies such as India, China and Latin America. The numbers in India represent the stark reality of such growth: seventy percent of the buildings that will exist by 2030 have yet to be built. This means that incorporating the most energy efficient windows, lighting, and air-conditioning systems right now at the design stage makes sense and is far more economical than costly retrofits down the road.

Energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit in helping ensure energy security and fight climate change. It can be put into place immediately. It saves money and pays for itself. In fact, India could save $42 billion each year by greatly improving energy efficiency in buildings, industrial plants, and appliances, according to McKinsey & Company. It avoids the needs for increasing dependence on fossil fuels such as dirty diesel back-up generators and coal-fired power plants. Especially when coupled with renewable energy, such as the growth of solar power in India, energy efficiency blazes a powerful path to combating climate change, ensuring energy security, and lowering costs.

About the Authors

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz

Chief Program Officer

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