Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Push for Increasing Energy Efficiencies in India

Scientists of the Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) and members of the Institution of Engineers India (IEI) recently urged India’s consumers, businesses and utility companies to save energy. They claimed that any conserved energy could be instead directed towards developing India’s infrastructure, which would ultimately help sustain the country’s growth.


So, what are some steps that India (and possibly other developing countries) can take to increase energy efficiencies/encourage citizens and businesses to conserve energy?

According to a report prepared by the McKinsey Global Institute, developing countries could give consumers and businesses loans or rebates to purchase higher-efficiency products/equipment, and also push government utilities and private companies to work together more closely.

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Another McKinsey Global Institute report states that countries can mandate certain energy efficiency standards for energy-intensive consumer appliances and business equipment.

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In fact, the Indian Energy Ministry recently embarked on a drive to replace around 400 million incandescent light bulbs with CFLs. This initiative could take up to three years, and according to the Indian power minister, could save the country 10,000 megawatts of energy per annum.


The IEI has also recommended that energy audits be conducted across India, and that consumers be made aware of the energy that can be saved if they turn-off their car during traffic stand-stills or use energy-efficient rice pressure cookers.


Encouraging energy efficiency can benefit countries such as India. For example, according to the first McKinsey Global Institute report sourced in this entry, developing countries can save around $600 million per annum by 2020 if they concentrate on increasing efficiencies in their existing energy technologies.

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The question remains – will developing countries such as India openly embrace such policies? Or will they continue treading on a business-as-usual pathway?


Vladdy Vladdivladstock said...

Energy efficiency is vitally important for the future of India and the world in general, and will also save people a lot of money, but this morning I read an article in The Week about a gigantic CO2-belching juggernaut looming on India's horizon. I'm talking about the diminutive Nano by Tata Motors, "The World's Cheapest Car." It is poised to go on sale in March.

According to The Week, Tata Motors (India's largest automaker) is optimistic about sales potential of the Nano, which costs around $2,500. There is a growing class of people in India and China (about 1 billion people) who are just now starting to earn enough to afford a car like this. Although it's not the safest car--no airbags, plastic bumpers, no 3-point seatbelts in the back seat--it is much safer than the scooters so often seen in India carrying multiple family members. It's also relatively efficient with a tiny 33 hp motor which gives the car about 50 MPG and is actually less polluting than most motorbikes with 2-cycle engines. It will have a catalytic converter which will remove about 80% of harmful pollutants from the tailpipe, allowing it to conform to European emissions standards, BUT catalytic converters do not stop the CO2 from being emitted.

Which brings me to my main point--we can expect huge increases in CO2 emissions from India and China as cheap autos like the Nano begin to flood the market. Tata Motors is projecting sales of 250,000 Nanos in the first year (although an article in The Hindu states that manufacturing capacity will limit sales to about 36,000/yr until 2010). Regardless of whether these sales targets are actually achieved, and regardless of efficiency gains across the board (residential, transport, industry) simply the fact that people's standards of living are rising means more CO2 will be emitted. I've seen some projections on the topic, but this makes me think about some time in the not-to-distant future, when several billions of people have standards of living similar to Americans'--how efficient can we really get? Where does this highway of growth and prosperity lead us from a carbon standpoint?

Mithun said...

I was going through an article published in The title of the article said "Half Truth and whole lies". This article talks about the current power situation in India. After reading the article it seemed rather imperative to me, that Energy efficiency is very important when it comes to India. Tall claims increase the installed capacity are made every year. The 11th plan posed a target of 78,700 MW, after including a 12000 MW estimate of captive power to be generated by the users. The reality of the situation is that even after 7 quarters of the 11th five year plan, the government has been able to achieve only 10,887 MW of additional installed capacity. At this rate the experts predict that India will be able to add only 40,000 MW by the end of the 11th five year plan which is almost 50% of the promised capacity. This actually widens the demand supply gap to much larger extent. With a growing economy like India, to sustain a healthy GDP growth of 7-8 % every year, we have to look towards energy efficiency. Taking energy efficiency seriously not only makes energy available but also helps in reducing CO2 emissions. As it is said "Energy saved = Energy generated"

Nirav Shah said...

Urging businesses and consumers to save energy must be a priority for developing counties. This is especially true for large developing countries, such as India and China, because the environmental and monetary cost of energy will eventually stymie economic growth. However, a bigger priority for these countries is to develop sustainable energy sources that are low impact and low cost. If encouraging energy efficiency saves hundreds of millions of dollars, developing low impact, low cost energy sources will easily save billions of dollars.

Last week in my social innovation class the co-founder of Husk Power Systems presented their solution to electrify India. There are hundreds of millions of people in India – estimates vary but range around 550 million - that live in the countryside and lack electricity. High infrastructure cost is the most common reason cited for the lack of electricity in rural India. The founders of Husk Power Systems have developed “mini-power plants” that provide electricity to small villages (ranging from 2000 to 4000 people) by converting rice husks into electricity. Rice husks, a waste byproduct of milling rice, is abundant in India. In 2007, the county produced approximately 143 million tons of rice, which accounted for 22 percent of world production. After building its proprietary generators and setting up transmission lines in villages, Husk Power Systems buys rice husks from local farmers and converts it to electricity. This electricity is then sold back to the villagers. Husk Power Systems has designed a cost effective method to deliver electricity that utilizes pre-existing resources and minimizes the impact to the environment.

This is an example of an innovation that has the potential to save developing countries billions of dollars. The need for energy policies that handsomely reward the development and implementation of low cost, low impact sustainable energy sources is acute. This is true for developing countries as well as developed countries.

Husk Power Systems