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India’s Mission on Energy Efficiency


Nick Zigelbaum, Energy Analyst, San Francisco, NRDC
Posted on Thursday 3rd September 2009

India wants the world to know that it will be part of the international solution to climate change. In an encouraging announcement of the National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency last week, India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said it was "a powerful signal to the international community that we are willing to contribute in a significant manner, to meeting the global challenge of climate change."

The NMEEE, the second of eight missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change, will reduce India's annual energy consumption by 5% by 2015 and reduce India's overall emissions nearly 100 million tons a year (this is roughly equivalent to taking 12 million American cars off the road every year). Implemented by the dynamic Bureau of Energy Efficiency, NMEEE will accomplish this through regulatory measures and incentive mechanisms meant to increase the efficiency of production and consumption of energy on all levels in India. Though India is rapidly increasing its solar capacity, most of its electricity still comes from coal (which accounts for roughly half of its emissions), so any increase in efficiency means less coal burned. The plan touches on everything from energy labeling of water pump-sets in villages to over-halls of energy use by India's largest industries through new technologies.

One particularly progressive initiative of the NMEEE is the Market Transformation for Energy Efficiency, or MTEE. The goal of the MTEE is to speed up the shift to more energy efficient appliances and materials, much in the same way the Obama administration has directed the US DOE. The MTEE takes a ‘sector specific' (such as lighting, agriculture, and commercial buildings) approach at increasing energy efficiency and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. This is a good move for India, as it would be for any developing nation that is unsure of stable economic growth. Without predicting growth across the entire economy, a fixed economy-wide cap is unfeasible and potentially detrimental. However, focusing on specific sectors allows India, which is still lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty, to help lead the world towards a reduced carbon future.

A second aspect of the MTEE is a mandate for limiting energy use by new commercial buildings. This is welcome news. Through advanced building codes, enforcement and labeling, the new codes target some of the biggest energy users in the country. The new codes would be even better if they were expanded to apply to residential buildings as well, which already account for approximately 25% of electricity use in India, despite the fact that nearly 40% of homes in the country are yet to be electrified. Another exciting part of the MTEE is the new requirement for labeling of equipment and appliances. Studies have shown labeling to be effective in improving energy efficiency in all areas, and similar to our advocacy in the US, we believe labeling to significantly increase market transparency and drive consumers towards more efficient products. Good examples of effective labeling in the US include ENERGY STAR, RESNET and the Energy Guide labels. Comparable programs exist in India to the same effect, such as BEE's Star Label for appliances and buildings.

In addition to setting standards, the NMEEE will ensure more investment in India's capacity to monitor, evaluate, and enforce energy efficiency standards. Many countries, including the US, struggle with enforcement of energy standards. Increasing funding in this area will result in more transparency, which Prime Minister Singh specifically cited the need for in saying the mission will only succeed if it is "a people's movement."

As my colleague, Anjali Jaiswal, pointed out in her recent post "India: Climate-Health," India's government believes it can "leapfrog over the carbon-intensive development phase." The NMEEE will play a big role in this leap and will provide for deeper Indo-US cooperation on energy efficiency, at the same time. Indian state governments and industries are working to find ways to improve their energy efficiency, and meet the new standards involved in the NMEEE. In response, last week, the US Department of Commerce announced an Energy Efficiency Trade Mission that will take place in India in November, allowing American energy and consulting companies to meet potential clients in India.

Finally (and importantly), with Copenhagen drawing closer (less than 100 days now), the NMEEE is a good basis for enhanced negotiations in the area of energy efficiency. The US and Indian governments both put a lot of stock in increasing energy efficiency, and should work together to bring this to the table in December. Energy efficiency is still the fastest and cheapest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and collaborating certainly couldn't hurt.

***This was originally posted on the NRDC Switchboard.

Nick Zigelbaum started on his career/life path by studying mechanical engineering and zero-energy construction at Cornell University. After graduation he slogged away for a large civil and marine construction company in Boston, MA, where he spent freezing winter nights on the Norwalk River and New Bedford Harbor remediating contaminated mud. From that cozy locale he migrated west to CA and got swept up in the frenzy of efficient building design while working at Rumsey Engineers, managing several highly energy-efficient design projects including zero-carbon, zero-waste and zero-energy developments in the Bay Area.

After paying his dues in the field he decided to lay aside the more technical aspects of his work to move into the realm of policy. This decision was out of a desire to reinvigorate his love of reading, writing and effecting change on a larger scale than one building at a time. He is now a legislative and regulatory advocate for state and federal, building and appliance energy efficiency for multiple US states and China.

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