We must build smart sustainable homes in India: Jamshyd Godrej

Reading time: 4 minutes
6 April 2016

Jamshyd Godrej, Chairman of Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), talks about the steps to making Indian homes more energy efficientThis is part of The Climate Group's project Home2025.

A recent World Bank report warns that without rapid, inclusive and climate-smart development, coupled with emissions reductions efforts to protect the poor, more than 100 million additional people could slip into poverty by 2030.

This could have irreversible development and health impacts for developing economies, especially the poor living in Africa and South East Asia.

Another recent report released by the United Nations Environment Programme confirms that global efforts to control carbon emissions and limit the increase in global temperatures to below 2 degrees would be falling short by a mammoth 12 GtCO2e (gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent) by 2030, when national commitments to cut emissions are implemented.

The message for all economies, including emerging economies like India, is loud and clear: climate-friendly and clean energy powered growth is the only way forward.

India today faces several daunting challenges. The Access to Clean Cooking Energy and Electricity – Survey of States report, based on India’s largest energy access survey, finds that 95% of rural households still use some form of traditional fuel for cooking. And despite 96% of villages being electrified, only two-thirds of rural households have a connection.

In addition, India’s total primary energy consumption is set to at least double by 2030. Balancing India’s growing aspirational population and their increasing energy demands with its resource and infrastructure constraints will be key to its sustainable development.

Government action

Over the past decade India has taken some steps toward a sustainable economy with varying degrees of success.

A National Action Plan on Climate Change, launched in 2008, included eight missions, covering solar energy, energy efficiency, water management, sustainable agriculture, sustainable habitats and the Himalayan ecosystem, among others.

An Expert Group for Low Carbon Strategies for Inclusive Growth was also commissioned to develop a low carbon pathway to 2030. And India’s INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) for COP21 included a voluntary commitment to cut the emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from 2005 levels.

Considering the diversity and complexity of issues that India faces, building sustainable homes driven by low carbon choices is both a challenge as well as an opportunity.

Several promising steps taken by policymakers as well as businesses give a glimpse into the sustainable Indian home of the future.

Phasing Down HFCs

With rising standards of living and hotter summers, India’s consumption of room air conditioners (ACs) is set to grow exponentially in the coming decades, straining India’s electric grid.

Room ACs also use hydroflourocarbons (HFCs), short-lived climate pollutants with very high global warming potential, contributing to increasing greenhouse gas pollution. A study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, reveals that if unabated, HFC emissions in 2050 could be equivalent to 500 million tonnes of CO2.

One innovative approach to combat this challenge is using the commonly available hydrocarbon-propane (hydrocarbon 290 or R-290) as the refrigerant. At Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd., we have ushered in a revolution of sorts, by launching the world’s first green air conditioner using R-290.

The R-290 AC makes the case that ACs for India and other developing economies can be built using climate-friendly refrigerant alternatives that protect the ozone layer, emit much lower greenhouse gases and at the same time make air conditioning more energy efficient and less costly to operate. 

Scaling Up Renewable Energy

The Indian government has announced aggressive plans to scale renewable energy to 175 gigawatts (GW) by 2022. This is an uphill task considering that installed capacity has to double every 18 months or at a compounded annual growth rate of 62% to meet the target by 2022.

Other notable challenges include land availability, lack of adequate evacuation infrastructure, securing long-term finance, enforcing renewable purchase obligations, strengthening domestic manufacturing capacity and training a skilled workforce.

India’s commitment to rapidly scale up renewable energy is strong though, recently reconfirmed in its INDCs, and serves an immense opportunity to decarbonize the power sector contributing to nearly 38% of overall emissions.

One-fifth of the 31 million households with roof cover sufficient for 3 kW solar systems could alone add 20 GW of clean energy, making India’s 40GW rooftop solar installation goal by 2022 well within reach. In addition, retrofitting household lighting with LED bulbs would lead to additional cost savings as well as reduced emissions.

Affordable Clean Cooking

Another area which deserves attention is advocating clean cooking choices for millions of Indians, many of whom still depend on traditional fuels like firewood, dung cakes and agricultural waste for cooking.

Every year, India witnesses 1.3 million premature deaths due to indoor air pollution (IAP), mainly caused by burning biomass.

Early in 2015, Prime Minister Modi launched a nationwide campaign ‘Give It Up’ urging liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) users who can afford to pay the market price for LPG to voluntarily surrender their LPG subsidy, which could then be diverted to provide affordable LPG services to poor rural households.

Improving access and promoting usage of cleaner cooking options such as LPG, along with PNG, biogas and improved cookstoves could counter the severe IAP problem.

But critically, a 2010 McKinsey report highlighted that 70% of the India of 2030 is still yet to be built. India’s smart cities of tomorrow will need to be built around two imperatives: increasing access to basic services and reducing the resource footprint.

In short, we need to build smart sustainable homes. And while the government would need to design comprehensive and inclusive policies for promoting sustainable development, much of the onus still lies with businesses and citizens to opt for low carbon choices.  

Jamshyd N. Godrej is the Chairman of the Board, Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd. and Chairperson, Council on Energy, Environment and Water.

Back to Home2025. For information please contact us at home2025@theclimategroup.org


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