Climate: What can be done about India’s energy and resource consumption? - Hindustan Times
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Climate: What can be done about India’s energy and resource consumption?

ByDeepak Singh Rana and Tarishi Kaushik
Oct 26, 2021 08:21 PM IST

Over the years, numerous factors — rapid urbanisation, growing population, economic growth, and rising purchasing power in India — have led to the high consumption of energy and resources in buildings.

India is the world’s third-largest producer and consumer of electricity, behind only China and the United States (US). This speaks volumes about the current energy consumption in the country and its expected growth in the future. As far as water consumption is concerned, the widening gap between water demand and supply in various cities is already alarming, and is expected to get more severe in the years to come.

Retrofitting the existing buildings with more water and energy-efficient systems, sustainable and innovative technologies, renewables integration, and improving the end-user behaviour can help achieve the saving potentials (Bloomberg (Representative Image)) PREMIUM
Retrofitting the existing buildings with more water and energy-efficient systems, sustainable and innovative technologies, renewables integration, and improving the end-user behaviour can help achieve the saving potentials (Bloomberg (Representative Image))

Over the years, numerous factors — rapid urbanisation, growing population, economic growth, and rising purchasing power in India — have led to the high consumption of energy and resources in buildings.

Energy, electricity, water, waste

India’s share of the total global primary energy demand is set to roughly double to nearly 11% by 2040, underpinned by strong population growth and economic development. India’s energy consumption for residential and commercial buildings is going to increase by an average of 2.7% per year between 2015 and 2040 — more than twice the increase in the global average.

According to the Composite Water Management Index 2018 by Niti Aayog, India is suffering from the worst water crisis in history. Factors such as unsustainable lifestyles, food consumption, and land-use patterns already have a significant impact on India’s water demand, which is rapidly rising. The lack of rainwater harvesting in monsoons and low water-use efficiency across various sectors — domestic, industry, and agriculture — widens the gap between demand and supply. India’s per-capita water availability is 1,545 m3 per year — less than the global standard of 1,700 m3.

India’s per capita water availability is expected to decline further to 1,401 m3 and 1,191 m3 by 2025 and 2050 respectively. The average domestic water demand will also increase from 85 litres per capita per day (lpcd) in 2000 to 125 lpcd and 170 lpcd by 2025 and 2050 respectively.

In 2008, the total water demand of 634 billion m3 was sufficed by a water supply of 650 billion m3. However, it is estimated that that total water demand (1,498 billion m3) will exceed the supply (744 billion m3) two folds by the year 2050.

The deteriorating quality of natural water bodies — due to the direct discharge of untreated sewage — also poses a serious threat. India generates 61,754 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage out of which 63% remains untreated. The waste generation is expected to increase further, and the projected wastewater in cities could reach up to 1,20,000 MLD by 2051, according to the India Infrastructure Report, 2017.

With rising consumption patterns, solid waste generation in India has also increased significantly. It poses serious environmental and health problems due to its inadequate management. India generates 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste every year. Of this, about 43 million tonnes (70%) is collected. And of this, only 11.9 million tonnes (27%) is processed and treated, and the remaining 31 million tonnes is dumped in landfill sites. It is estimated that urban municipal solid waste generation will most likely increase to 165 million tonnes in 2030.

Buildings and energy consumption

All of these statistics signify that the current scenario of the generation and consumption of energy, electricity, water, and solid waste is not sustainable in the long-run.

And buildings play a crucial role in this. This comprises the use of land, raw materials, water, and energy. It is estimated that buildings in India will have the highest growth in energy consumption through 2040.

However, various studies have revealed the scope of significant saving potential in energy and resource consumption. According to Girish Mishra and Vanita Ahuja’s report, Water Consumption Norms and Utilities Management, the energy-saving potential in commercial buildings is estimated at around 32–42 Terawatt-hour (TWh), while for the residential sector, it is estimated to be 55–75 TWh. Similarly, the water-saving potential in buildings is estimated to be around 30-40%.

The energy and resource-saving interventions in a building can be done in two phases: The design phase or the operation phase.

The design phase includes the system selection in the construction of a new building, whereas the operation phase includes retrofit and maintenance in existing buildings. Because existing buildings account for most of the energy and resource use, and new buildings consume a less percentage, it becomes imperative to focus on improving the performance of existing buildings.

Retrofitting the existing buildings with more water and energy-efficient systems, sustainable and innovative technologies, renewables integration, and improving the end-user behaviour can help achieve the saving potentials. Retrofitting measures also cover improving indoor environmental quality for better occupant health and productivity.

Designing sustainable retrofit and refurbishing measures for existing buildings can benefit the environment and also reduce operation costs, enhancing the building’s durability and resilience.

For analysing the energy and resource management in existing buildings and designing efficient retrofit measures, an audit is the most effective tool.

Audits and analyses

Energy audits determine the amount of energy being consumed by a building and the saving potential that can be achieved. Similarly, a resource conservation audit identifies the water consumption status of buildings, solid waste management, and the potential to conserve and re-use it.

The Sustainable Buildings division at TERI has been conducting building audits since 1989. In the last three decades, it has audited more than 300 buildings including luxury hotels, super-speciality hospitals, educational institutes, offices, railway stations, information technology buildings, and townships, both in India and abroad. The “United Technologies Corporation (UTC)-TERI Centre of Excellence (CoE) for energy-efficient existing buildings in India” has been recently set up, with a team of architects and engineers with specialised backgrounds in energy and resource audits, and in-depth knowledge of building efficiencies.

An audit evaluates the building, informs the building owners/facility managers of the current energy and resource consumption, and presents opportunities to optimise it along with a financial analysis.

This can considerably bring down the operating and maintenance cost of buildings, making it not just a more viable option for businesses, but also a way out of a looming, but avoidable, crisis.

Deepak Singh Rana is associate fellow, and Tarishi Kaushik is research associate, Sustainable Buildings Division, TERI

The views expressed are personal

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