Buildings account for more than one-third of the electricity consumption in India. At the same time, the overall share of the commercial sector in India’s electricity consumption is 6.5 percent, growing at a rate of 11 – 12 percent over the last few years. Commercial buildings—new office spaces, information technology (IT)-based offices and data centers, multispecialty hospitals, luxury hotels, and retail malls—are becoming more energy-intensive. The rate of increase in commercial electricity consumption is much more rapid than the annual 9 percent rate of increase in the floor area of commercial buildings.
We all know that energy efficiency—an invisible resource—is the cheapest, fastest way to close the energy demand and supply gap. Incorporating energy-efficient windows, lighting, and air-conditioning systems at the design stage for new construction is more economical than costly retrofits that developed countries now must perform to save energy. Given the unprecedented growth of new buildings, India has a singular opportunity to lock in lower costs and energy savings through energy-efficient design and thus generate more resources for development for decades to come.
In other words, there is a need, an urgent one, for greater coordination between the real estate sector and government agencies to enhance the energy efficiency in Indian buildings. In fact, enhancement of energy efficiency of Indian buildings cannot be possible unless there is complete involvement of developers and realtors in the exercise. Their involvement is necessary both at the construction level as well as operations level.
Energy efficiency of the Indian buildings has increased during the last ten years or so but the rate at which we are achieving the efficiency enhancement leaves much to be desired. Our performance is laughable when we compare the energy efficiency of our buildings with that of developed countries. We are nowhere near to them in terms of energy efficiency. India’s modern offices use more than twice the amount of energy of their international counterparts. The Energy Performance Index (EPI) of Indian buildings ranges from 200 to 400 kilowatt hour per square meter per year (kWh/sq m/year), compared to similar buildings in developed nations with an EPI of less than 150 kWh/sq m/ year. According to a research report for typical Indian buildings that do not use central heating or cooling, the EPI is towards the lower end of the spectrum, closer to 200 kWh/sq m/ year. For new high-end commercial buildings with 24-hour daily use patterns the EPI can be as high as 400 kWh/sq m/year.
For real estate projects greater than 20,000 square meters, Environmental Impact Assessments are necessary and the builders are required to obtain an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests before going ahead with their projects. Currently, however, environmental clearances are not designed to effectively assess energy savings. Integrating energy use guidelines with EIA can have a significant impact on reducing the energy footprint of buildings. Therefore, Governments should think of integrating ECBC compliance with EIA clearance by establishing minimum energy benchmarks for environmental clearance and leveraging local enforcement mechanisms.
The Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), developed by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) prescribing a minimum standard for energy use in new buildings and major retrofits is voluntary at the national level. Its heartening to note that several states have announced plans to make the ECBC operational for new construction and major retrofits, including: Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. These leading states are setting an important precedent to promote energy efficiency leadership in India. However, it should be noted that in next ten years we need to achieve (in terms of emission control) much more than what we have achieved so far. Therefore, its high time that the government makes ECBC mandatory in the entire country.