Energy efficiency improvements are vital to global decarbonisation and can directly support the green energy transition by reducing the magnitude of required capacity investment. According to United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) statistics, carbon emissions from building operations were linked to 28% of 2019 global energy-related emissions, yet investment in building efficiency improvements was decreasing before the pandemic. Year 2020 may be an exception as most of the resources and efforts were diverted to fight the pandemic but this should not become a perpetual excuse for our inability to meet the target – or at least reach somewhere near the target. After all the government has several tools available to support green buildings.
Focus on energy efficiency retrofits as well as rooftop solar installation can help us to achieve our objective and in fact, investment in each of these can contribute to a fast economic recovery while also resulting in emission reductions.
The GHG emissions control programmes can be among the most effective policy tools available for stimulating domestic economies as they create more jobs than other investments. They can do so locally and quickly, and can deliver a high long-run economic multiplier.
Well-designed building energy efficiency programs can secure significant other environmental and social cobenefits. By reducing overall energy demand, these policies directly prompt a reduction in energy use for an equivalent outcome. Energy efficiency programmes have the potential to create many jobs in the short-term while, in the long-term, they can reduce energy expenditures for vulnerable renters and individuals in public housing, who are often left out of energy efficiency initiatives restricted to homeowners.
Further, the perception of lower energy costs could also stimulate new energy demand. Housing retrofits have also been shown to be effective in reducing energy costs for occupants and reducing fuel poverty, which is a vital component of the 2030 Agenda. As energy expenditures are likely to be proportionally higher for low-income households, they are also likely to benefit from well-targeted energy efficiency policies.
India has embarked upon providing houses to homeless under which more than two crore houses will be constructed both in rural and urban areas. Housing policy aim to provide affordable housing for low-income communities, bringing significant social dividends. Such policies could be further enhanced using mandates to require design in line with green building standards.
Its apparent that opportunities in energy efficiency retrofits tend to be most attractive in advanced economies with high established housing stock. In emerging markets like India, opportunities in new energy efficient housing are likely to be more attractive than retrofits given the added benefit of sheltering the vulnerable. Nations with extreme climates, as in our country, are likely to find upgrades in heating efficiency and insulation particularly attractive for improving energy efficiency.
Perhaps this is the right time to go all out on our fight against GHGs now as it can give double benefits.