Energy Efficiency through Technology

 

Harvesting the best possible output from our energy generation systems

Solar power

Along with increased economic activity, the demand for energy has peaked in India. From 450 million tons of oil equivalent (TOE) in 2000, it reached 770 million TOE in 2012; and is estimated to reach 1500 TOW by 2030. This demand is being driven by energy services required for greater industrial production, office automation, cooling, heating, domestic needs, and more.

No country in the world has reached a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.9 or more without an annual energy supply of at least 4 TOE per capita. The average annual energy supply in India in 2011 was 0.6 TOE per capita as opposed to a global average of 1.88 TOW per capita.

So, it is vital to increase energy production from various sources—both traditional and non-traditional. Along with improved production, there is a need to look at the generation and distribution infrastructure and optimize the efficiency of the entire energy cycle. For example, of the total 85 GW of electricity generation capacity added in the past decade, as much as 30 GW of power is lost in distribution and transmission losses—a staggering 35% of the output.

These figures highlight the importance of energy conservation and efficiency in India. Otherwise, it will be an eternal case of ‘two steps forward, one step backward’ for the energy scenario in the country.

Regulations + Awareness = Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is being driven both by regulatory mechanisms as well as by market demand. The Government of India enacted the Energy Conservation Act in 2001 to reduce the energy intensity of the Indian economy. Implementation of the act is being facilitated by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). Among other things, BEE regulates standards and labelling of equipment and appliances; energy conservation building codes for commercial buildings; and energy consumption norms for energy-intensive industries.

The Ministry of Power, through a number of initiatives, has been producing some results:  10,836 MW of avoided capacity of power was generated during the Ninth Plan period.

Awareness building is another important initiative in this regard. Government agencies use media such as television, as well as promote initiatives among school children to promote energy conservation and efficiency.

Market forces, too, shape promotion of energy efficiency. This has been observed in the rise of LEDs (light emitting diodes) to replace older CFL and incandescent lights. The city of Chennai, for example, plans to install more than 6,000 LED street lights by the end of the year.

Technology = Prime Mover towards an Energy Efficient Future

Beyond regulation and awareness, technology can perhaps be the biggest game changer in this space.

With a sixth of the world’s population but only a thirtieth of its energy, India must do all it can to bridge its energy demand-supply gap. Our current oil import bill is around $120 billion, but could spike to $230 billion by 2023 if we continue on the path to progress. Technological ways to conserve and optimize our energy could be the key to a cleaner, greener, energy-rich future that is lighter on the exchequer’s wallet as well.

Some technology-based measures our policy-makers must seriously consider include:

  1. Overhauling/repairing energy distribution networks to reduce transmission and distribution losses. Disparate systems could be integrated and streamlined, process could be efficiently automated and redundancies removed in the latest energy grid technologies.
  2. Switching to more energy-efficient electrical/electronic devices that consume lower amounts of energy (lighting, motors, appliances, etc.) This also includes intelligent technologies that control and optimize energy use in offices, factories and public places.
  3. Enforcement of stricter emission standards for vehicles, as well as mandatory metering and energy management control systems (EMCS) in public utilities.
  4. Promotion of alternative or renewable energy technologies such as biomass, solar and wind energy via incentives and subsidies.

The central and state governments, institutions and think-tanks are doing a lot of work in this regard. But a bigger policy push and more vigorous enforcement is the need of the hour. The massive use of technology in the energy efficiency space can vastly improve our country’s energy prospects.

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