The recently-released Energy Conservation Building Codes can save as much as 50% of conventional energy consumption, Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) director general Abhay Bakre said in an interview. However, the decision to make the Codes mandatory lies with the States and not the Centre, he added. The BEE is also working on a ‘super-efficient’ category of appliances that save even more energy than the highest-rated five-star appliances. Excerpts:
How does one reconcile the huge energy demand in India with the need to also save energy?
On the one side, we have a very clear roadmap for the economy, and on the other hand we have a clear objective in terms of electricity and energy.
In terms of electricity, we have a very definite programme that it has to reach every household. That means there will definitely be an increase in demand. On the other side, the economic development and growth will again increase energy demand, including electricity demand. But we have to match the supply. So, not only do we have to increase supply, but also whatever new demand that is coming up, we want it to be as optimised as possible, as efficient as possible. So, in new homes, buildings, factories, they should have energy efficient appliances like LED lighting, and very efficient ACs.
So, even though the size of energy demand is increasing, we want it to be efficient so that the overall demand is not as high as expected.
The BEE introduced the star-rating system for energy efficiency in appliances a few years ago. How is it evolving?
We can broadly categorise this into three different phases. The first phase was in 2006-10, when pieces of equipment were first put into the star labelling band. Many manufacturers at the time were not even manufacturing one-star rated appliances. So, they were brought into the star-rated category. In a complementary manner, consumers started gaining awareness that they should go for star-rated appliances. So that increased the demand, which increased the attraction for the vendors and manufacturers to increase their share of star-rated products. That has [brought] the market and the manufacturing into the star-rating system.
The second phase was increasing customer awareness even more. They had to believe that investing in a star-rated appliance was worth it. Instead of going for one-star and two-star, consumers began demanding four-star and five-star appliances. This, again, induced the vendors to stock more four-star and five-star appliances. By 2014-15 or so, we came to a situation where the one-star and two-star appliances were wiped out.
In the last three years, we have come out with an even more efficient category. The four-star and five-star of a few years ago have become one-star and two-star now. Now there are vendors aspiring for the new four-star and five-star appliances. The new phase is that we are moving towards new ‘super-efficient’ equipment, which are beyond five-star. If there are ACs, LED lamps, and even ceiling fans that are more efficient than five-star, then they will be deemed super-efficient. We haven’t worked out a rating for them, but we have begun calling them super-efficient.
We are at international levels in terms of the energy efficiency of some of these appliances.
What does this mean in energy savings?
Take the example of ACs, which have the most impact. What is one-star now was four-star in 2010. And overall we have seen that comparing the one-star of 2010 and the one-star of 2016, there is almost an improvement of 35-40% in energy efficiency. That’s the effect of the change in technology.
Power Minister Piyush Goyal recently released the Energy Conservation Building Codes. How will these work in reducing power consumption in the country?
We have buildings for different applications. This document comes out with a very clear understanding of the application [or the use] of a building. That’s why the (energy efficiency) criteria for every application of a building has been very clearly defined.
If it is an office building hosting a service sector office that is running 14 hours a day, then that should have an occupancy sensor in the rooms (to be able to tell if the room is empty or not), for example.
That is a clear requirement. On the other hand, if it is a school, which operates for only 6-8 hours, it doesn’t need an occupancy sensor. The children are there during school hours. An occupancy sensor in this case would [mean] an extra expenditure for very little benefit.
This is the approach: that for every application of a building, there is a specific criterion.
Is the government considering making the codes mandatory?
The benefit of the code is that it is a ready reckoner. Any designer, developer, and architect can go through it and implement it. So implementation can start now.
The question of whether it has to be made mandatory or backed up by a regulation or law is an entirely different process. Since building laws are by the state governments, they can decide what they want to make mandatory for whatever application. They may like to make it mandatory for office buildings or for institutions like colleges. It is up to the state governments or even municipalities, depending on their jurisdiction, to decide what should be made mandatory.
Was there a target for energy savings while designing the Codes?
It was not a target; in fact, it was an analysis. We did a technical analysis, a material-based analysis, a simulation, etc. Based on the criteria that were developed, we are in a position to estimate that the base level itself (the lowest level of energy-efficient steps to be taken in the codes) will give a 20% saving over conventional levels. The higher levels will give about 35%. The highest level can give as much as 45-50%.
What benefit do the Codes have for buildings that are already constructed?
The Codes have come out in such a manner that it is directly beneficial to new buildings. If the building is already constructed, then a major portion of the benefit is compromised as the shell of the building is already made. There are other features like systems, lighting, and comfort controls that can be retrofitted. The cost will not be much. There are certain times when the inner design of a building is modified, the walls are broken down or shifted, for example, and this can be done according to the Code.
Is customer awareness of energy-efficient appliances present only in the main metros or is it taking place in the smaller cities and towns as well?
There is a good response even in these cities. We get the regular sales data from companies for each location. It is mandatory for them to provide the data. And we have regular dealer programmes, since dealers are the main contact for the consumers. They are getting trained and are facilitating the sale of higher energy-rated appliances.
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