India : For clean air, focus on energy efficiency

Since power generation causes pollution, energy demand should be curbed by using LED lights, smart meters and the like

The threat of rising air-pollution is looming large across the world. According to a report by the WHO, the elevated pollution levels have bred a host of secondary issues like respiratory diseases, extreme weather conditions, crop failure and biodiversity losses, demanding our urgent attention. The rising pollution levels are rooted in rapid industrialisation and urban growth. This has led to an ever-increasing demand for energy, to cater to the rising population.

Consequently, energy production and consumption continue to be one of the largest contributors to global emissions. The current power demand is being met through sources such as coal, natural gas, sun, wind and water. The methods used to produce the energy result in the release of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, which lead to increased emissions.

If the generation of energy spawns air pollution, then one of the most effective ways to reduce it is to improve energy efficiency. According to an estimate by UN in its Global Status Report, 70 per cent of the global carbon emissions can be reduced significantly by increasing energy efficiency. While the push towards adoption of renewable energy sources is a step in the right direction, investing in improving energy efficiency can greatly bolster the charge against rising emissions.

The India story

In 2015, the India Energy Outlook of The International Energy Agency forecasted that the country’s energy use will more than double by 2040, reaching 1,900 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe). This rising demand will require interventions on a massive scale and increasing the efficiency of energy use is the most feasible and affordable alternative. Recently, India emerged as a global leader in the charge against rising emissions and has committed to reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35 per cent by 2030. Thus, improving the energy efficiency of the nation gains greater import.

Currently, India has the world’s largest energy efficiency portfolio and has built a robust ecosystem for stakeholders across diverse sectors. Energy efficiency interventions such as UJALA has brought down LED prices to almost a tenth of market prices and has helped reduce energy usage considerably. Installation of LED streetlights alone has reduced annual GHG emissions by 1.39 million tonne.

Another important technology, which promises to cut India’s energy distribution losses and consequently emissions are smart meters, which are set to play an important role in aiding India’s energy transition. The five million smart meters, which have been fitted across India, have already helped in achieving a unit price which is 50 per cent lower than the market rate. E-mobility too has significant potential in helping India achieve its climate change goals and the government’s ongoing electric mobility programme envisages six million electric and hybrid vehicles on roads by 2020. This will have a significant impact on combating vehicular emission and help reduce it by 1.3 per cent by 2020.

Key initiatives

Some of the other crucial interventions that have already helped India along on its path of energy efficiency are tri-generation and green buildings. Implementing energy efficiency measures in buildings will unlock substantial energy and cost savings for the next several decades. Additionally, the tri-generation technology, which simultaneously generates electricity, heating, and cooling energy from a single fuel input, is a remarkable solution to meet the rising commercial and residential energy demands.

Another important area, which has traditionally had enormous GHG footprint and substantial energy demand, is cooling and refrigeration. Taking cognisance of this, the government is working towards an exhaustive National Cooling Action Plan (NCAP), which aims to make cooling sustainable and energy efficient. We have already seen laudable initiatives like the introduction of super-efficient ACs, that have enormous potential in promoting smart cooling practices across the nation.

According to a report by The Shakti Foundation, the energy efficiency market in India is pegged at over $23 billion. There is a vast potential for energy efficiency advances in most industries, ranging from 46-88 per cent in textile industry to 51-92 per cent in iron and steel industry.

Thus, a collective effort encompassing all the stakeholders, including the government, industry and even users will usher in an era of energy efficiency in the nation. The increased efficacy of our energy efficiency initiatives will enable our nation in combating the menace of air pollution, along with helping it in achieving its climate goals.


Source :

Smart Grid Bulletin August 2019

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