Media article

Doubling Energy Efficiency – A Path To Sustainable Development For India

Pradeep Singhvi,
Abhishek Gupta
insight featured image

Efficiency in energy usage has emerged as a pivotal aspect of fostering just and sustainable energy transitions, offering a crucial mechanism for reducing carbon footprints in the global economy. Doubling energy efficiency entails a transformative endeavour aimed at optimising energy utilisation while minimising waste and emissions. It signifies a concerted effort to enhance the productivity and sustainability of energy systems, thereby unlocking profound socioeconomic benefits. Recognising this, the International Energy Agency (IEA) underscores energy efficiency as the cornerstone, often presenting the most cost-effective means for nations to optimise energy consumption. Recent analyses from the IEA highlight substantial advancements in global energy intensity improvements over the past two decades, resulting in heightened energy utilisation and significant reductions in CO2 emissions.

The significance of energy efficiency is magnified when aligned with key global objectives, such as climate mitigation under SDG 13 and the Paris Agreement. The IEA estimates that enhancing energy efficiency could contribute economically to 40 per cent of the emissions reduction targets outlined in the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, combining renewable energy sources with energy efficiency measures not only facilitates sustainable development but also unlocks energy applications previously deemed unattainable. Doubling efficiency could yield substantial benefits, including a reduction in energy demand by 190 EJ (Exajoule) and a decrease in CO2 emissions by 11 Gt (Gigatonnes) by 2030, while also enhancing energy security, affordability, and creating over 12 million jobs, and providing electricity access to 800 million people. These efforts align closely with the Paris Agreement and SDG 7.

Global and Indian Endeavours

While global primary energy intensity improved by 2 per cent in 2022, it needs to double to 4 per cent annually by 2030 to achieve net-zero goals by 2050. Based on the data analysis of Total Energy Supply (TES) per unit of GDP, India’s energy efficiency improvement rate would need an improvement of over 2.1 per cent points vis a vis Business as Usual (BAU) scenario to attain the scenario of doubled energy efficiency. G20 nations, including India, have shown dedication to this objective through initiatives like the Versailles Statement and the IEA’s Net Zero Roadmap. India’s “Voluntary Action Plan” and “Mission LiFE” initiatives further underscore its leadership in energy efficiency.

In the Indian context, energy efficiency emerges as a critical necessity given the nation’s rapid economic expansion and escalating energy requirements. Acknowledging this urgency, India has proactively committed within the G20 framework to doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. This voluntary action plan, endorsed by fellow G20 members, reflects a collective determination to curb emissions and promote sustainable development.

The importance of doubling energy efficiency in India cannot be overstated. As a member of the G20, India’s commitment resonates with global efforts to expedite energy transitions and combat climate change. The voluntary action plan marks a significant stride toward enhancing energy security, affordability, and environmental sustainability. By prioritising energy efficiency, India can fortify its resilience against energy supply constraints and mitigate the adverse effects of escalating energy prices.

Obstacles in this Regard

Nevertheless, achieving this ambitious goal entails overcoming various challenges. One notable hurdle lies in the divergent rates of progress across different sectors and countries. While some nations have sustained impressive energy intensity improvements, others lag due to differing economic structures and activities. To bridge this gap, concerted efforts are required to bolster energy efficiency initiatives across all sectors such as industries, buildings, transport, power, etc. supported by robust policy frameworks and innovative financing mechanisms.

Meeting the doubling target necessitates comprehensive policy packages, including expanding and strengthening energy performance standards, launching information campaigns, and offering financial incentives to influence consumer behaviour, along with tripling annual investments in energy efficiency to USD 1.8 trillion by 2030.

In India’s case, numerous challenges pose formidable obstacles to doubling energy efficiency. These include regulatory bottlenecks, infrastructural deficiencies, and economic constraints. For instance, the household sector, a significant energy consumer in India, heavily relies on biomass for cooking, exacerbating health risks and environmental degradation. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach encompassing policy reforms, technological innovation, and public awareness campaigns.

India is taking strides to tackle these challenges by increasing clean energy access, exploring renewable energy sources, enhancing energy efficiency across sectors, rationalising energy policies and infrastructure development, and diversifying energy partnerships and diplomacy.

The Way Forward

To fully realise the potential of doubling energy efficiency in India, a comprehensive set of recommendations is imperative. Policymakers must adopt holistic policy packages aimed at expanding the coverage of efficiency regulations and strengthening energy performance standards. In this respect, the realisation of the Net Zero Emissions Scenario will require several equally important actions across power, building, transportation, and industrial sectors including electrification and switch over to renewable sources of energy, pursuit towards technical efficiency along with avoided demand through behaviour change and materials efficiency. Similarly, scaling up and replicating innovative energy efficiency technologies by aggregating the demand can play a significant role in achieving this. Moreover, incentivizing consumers through awareness campaigns and financial support can drive market demand for energy-efficient technologies.

The private sector also holds a crucial role in advancing energy efficiency, from conducting energy audits to retrofitting outdated infrastructure. By embracing emerging energy efficiency technologies and promoting sustainable practices, businesses can significantly contribute to India’s energy transition agenda.

Furthermore, international collaboration and knowledge sharing are paramount for accelerating progress in energy efficiency. India’s presidency of the G20 presents a unique opportunity to spearhead global initiatives on energy efficiency and sustainable development. By leveraging platforms like the Energy Transition Working Group, India can catalyse transformative change and inspire collective action toward a greener future.

In conclusion, doubling energy efficiency serves as a linchpin for India’s journey toward sustainable development. By aligning national commitments with global objectives, India can chart a path toward energy security, economic prosperity, and environmental stewardship. Through collaborative efforts and innovative solutions, India can emerge as a beacon of energy efficiency excellence, setting a precedent for other nations to follow suit.

This article first appeared in on 04 March 2024.