HomeSpotlightSmart homes are the way forward

Smart homes are the way forward

Union Power Minister, Shri RK Singh recently said that building sector is second largest consumer of electricity after industry but it is expected to become the largest energy consuming sector by 2030. But looking at the current growth rate of energy consumption in buildings this milestone may be achieved much before target predicted by the minister.

According to the statistics published by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, in 2018-19, buildings in residential sector consumed about 24.24 % of India’s electrical energy – primarily for HVAC, lighting and ceiling fan. Further, between 2009 and 2019, electricity demand in the residential sector increased at a rate of 7.5 % per annum, slightly higher than the rate of increase in total electricity demand of 7.3% during the same period.

Sector wise energy consumption

SectorConsumption as a % of total
Industry41.9
Domestic24.2
Agriculture17.9
Commercial8.4
Traction & Railways1.5
Others6.1

 

Rapid economic growth leads to increased energy demand

Energy demand is increasing worldwide due to rapid economic growth and widespread access to energy resources. In India, buildings sector (residential and commercial) constitutes 32.6% of total electricity consumption. Building sector consumes about 377 billion units (BU), as per the 2018-19 figures of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. If current scenario continues, which is likely, electricity demand will rise from 377 BU per year to 4,697 BU per year and buildings will demand 55% of total electricity generated by 2047. Electricity demand in residential and commercial buildings sectors is predicted to rise by 5 folds and 3 folds respectively, by 2032.

Problem of managing peak demand

However, supplying power, which involves electricity generation, transmission and distribution, is not an easy task but is an enormous one involving huge capital and operational expenditure. Utilities face challenges in meeting the peak demand of residential energy due to the heavy expenses that are incurred in the infrastructure setup of peaking demand generating source as well as transmission and distribution infrastructure. The addition of renewable energy generating sources to the electricity mix has also contributed to intermittence in the availability of energy. In this scenario, demand response can be used by electric utility companies to reduce or shift energy consumption from peak hours of the day, when the demand for electricity is the greatest to leaner demand periods.

Smart home devices can help to save energy

There are smart home devices that facilitate the utilities in engaging with the residential electricity consumers to implement demand response by putting in place required infrastructure to link utility servers with individual dwelling through smart devices. Going forward, this link and capability of controlling appliances from anywhere (by consumer or utility) can play an important role in improving the peak load management in utilities. The developments in the technology that resulted in low powered, low cost computing devices along with cheaper internet data access are the two principal drivers behind adoption of connect devices (Smart Homes) at almost every level of society and residential sector has also started witnessing their penetration.

We are already using some devices

Smart home devices have entered our homes in many spheres. Devices like routers, set-top boxes and voice-controlled speakers are now common features in homes in cities. Recently, Piramal Realty launched digitally enabled apartments with features like lights, TV, fan, AC, etc. controlled by app or voice assistant and app controlled main lock and some energy saving technological tools. In the coming days, developers will be forced to install such devices and use such features as part of their marketing tools as the market becomes too competitive and the customers too demanding. Now the smart home technology is more about the overall system – the services provided –rather than the connected devices themselves as the consumers want the benefits without having to master the technical details.

IoT and AI help growth

Now the smart devices such as speakers, lights, water heaters, AC, washing machine, can be either connected to the internet or can take commands locally. All these devices can communicate, send information, and take commands. This is made reality by the Internet of Things (IoT), and it’s a key component of smart homes. These devices make activities, like setting up a lamp to turn on and off as per consumer preference is simple and relatively inexpensive.

The concept of Smart homes facilitates the utilities to bring in demand response and engage with the residential electricity consumers to implement demand response. Aggregators in the building space environment, that include-dedicated organisations, builders and technology promoters, enable the needed bridge between utilities and consumers to simplify the implementation of demand response. For example, in the United States of America, companies have been supporting individual buyers and organizations in procuring quality conservation products at affordable prices. This trend can catch up elsewhere too including India.

With rapid urbanisation, construction of new buildings is gaining significant importance as more than 300 million rural & semi-urban residents are expected to migrate to towns and cities in India by 2030. With  schemes like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), alongside private and municipal construction, large proportion of this population is expected to live in buildings which have not been constructed yet. Implementation of energy efficiency measures can help in reducing energy demand of residential sector anywhere between 30 to 40 % for new construction as well retrofit in the existing building stock. This can happen only when the places we live in become smart homes.

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