Toward Energy Independence: A Tale of Two Efficient Cities

As India marks seven decades of independence this month, some states and key cities are implementing energy efficiency building codes to achieve greater energy independence. Energy efficiency is the cheapest way to save energy and money, resulting in greater energy security in the face of rapid urbanization and skyrocketing energy demands.  

India’s Power Ministry highlights that Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) implementation, minimum energy performance standards for buildings, can cut energy use in commercial buildings by 30 to 50 percent by 2030, locking in energy savings for years to come. Furthermore, ECBC adoption is a central element of India’s building efficiency policy framework that underpins the nation’s climate commitments and its ambitious Smart Cities initiative.

Two leading cities, Amaravati and Hyderabad, capitals of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana respectively, are working with knowledge partners the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) and NRDC on code implementation. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were the first in India to make the ECBC mandatory in 2014. The code is applicable to all new commercial buildings with a plot area of more than 1,000 square meters or built up area of more than 2,000 square meters and certain categories of buildings such as multiplexes, hospitals, hotels and convention centers irrespective of their built-up area.

Amaravati – Andhra Pradesh’s New Capital

Like much of India, Amaravati presents an exciting opportunity. Two-thirds of the building structures that will exist in 2030, are yet to be built. Experts agree that it is cheaper and easier to build efficiency into new construction than it to pay for retrofits later. Implementing building codes in cities now provides an opportunity to set the construction standards for energy efficient buildings before a majority of the buildings are already constructed.

Under the leadership of Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra Pradesh, and its new capital Amaravati, is leading by implementing energy-efficient building construction for the entire state.  

AP Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is leading the state’s energy-efficient urbanisation

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Amravati is developing an online ECBC compliance and building approval system to make compliance convenient for developers in the region. Last year, Hyderabad became the first city to develop such a system. However, Amravati has since moved faster and has undertaken several key activities to implement the code.  

Hyderabad – Telangana’s IT Capital

Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana, is pioneering a system for online energy code compliance, similar to Amaravati, that can potentially be a role model as several Indian cities continue to grow at a rapid pace while striving to meet energy demand and fight climate change.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao leading to make the state energy secure

The pilot phase in Hyderabad focuses on on-the-ground change and implementation of energy efficiency practices, and is developed in partnership with the state and city government. In efforts to streamline the energy efficiency code for local conditions, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation along with the Telangana state’s Municipal Administration & Urban Development (MAUD) department developed preliminary draft guidelines for a simplified version of the Telangana State Energy Conservation Building Code (TSECBC). The draft guidelines were developed after six months of discussions with experts, including engineers and architects with key developers, the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), among others. The draft guidelines are available for a further comment by developers and stakeholders to improve the online compliance system.

Led by MAUD’s ECBC Technical Committee, Telangana State and Hyderabad are working on effective implementation of the code that includes awareness and capacity building; integration with the building approval process, and technical and expert support. Stakeholder discussions and responses have been positive with the creation of an ECBC cell and resources. Real estate developers have assured cooperation to support implementation of the compliance system. Telangana has also been working on an extensive third-party assessor program to accelerate implementation. 

Five key actions that Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are taking:

  • Establishing an ECBC Cell in the city administration offices: The states have established a dedicated ECBC Cell consisting of two technical ECBC experts. The Cell is housed in the city town planning department that is tasked with managing all new building approvals. The role of the ECBC Cell is to provide technical assistance to the city authorities and conduct stakeholder trainings to build city- and state-level capacity to implement the code.
  • Providing helpful technical resources to support code compliance: With the help of ASCI, NRDC and IIIT, the states have developed a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for stakeholders. The FAQs address different aspects of the code and help developers, architects and third-party assessors comply with ECBC’s technical aspects.
  • Communicating with the state’s other cities on implementation processes: Amaravati is actively communicating with the other key cities in the state. All urban local bodies (city councils) are aware of the development of a dedicated ECBC cell and knowledge resources to mainstream code compliance in the overall building permission process. In Telangana, the MAUD is taking on the role of communicating with all major cities in the state.
  • Consulting with stakeholders and building capacity: The ECBC Cell has held extensive meetings with architects, building engineering consultants, real estate developers, and other stakeholders in the state and is planning to conduct several awareness workshops for them. Special workshops for members of the Council of Architecture are also underway.
  • Identifying demonstration projects: The state is identifying key projects to demonstrate the process of code compliance, to provide an example for future project. The state aims to develop a database of ECBC-compliant buildings as the code becomes more mainstream.

Progress in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana brings India one step closer to meeting its energy intensity targets under the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015. As India celebrates its heritage and achievements on the 70th Independence Day, we should look toward increasing our energy independence in the future. More states should join Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in leading the way and taking a step toward energy independence by implementing the ECBC. State-level leadership can accelerate energy-efficient cities across India and with it, India’s energy future. 

Co-authored with Rajkiran Bilolikar, Associate Professor (Energy) at the Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad. 

About the Authors

Nehmat Kaur

India Consultant

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