Do we need new energy?
Ask anyone about energy and the first words that get associated with them are “clean,” “solar,” “wind,” “electric.” Unfortunately, the word that doesn’t often come up is efficient. Energy efficiency simply means using less energy to perform the same task – that is, eliminating energy waste. This comes with a number of benefits: reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing demand for energy imports, and lowering our costs on a household and economy-wide level. While renewable energy technologies also help accomplish these objectives, improving energy efficiency is the cheapest – and often the most immediate – way to reduce the use of fossil fuels. There are enormous opportunities for efficiency improvements in every sector of the economy, whether it is buildings, transportation, industry, or energy generation.
To improve how much to reduce the energy consumption level to, we first need to know how much energy we’re consuming. India is the world’s third-largest energy consuming country, thanks to rising incomes and improving standards of living. Energy use has doubled since 2000, with 80% of demand still being met by coal, oil, and solid biomass. On a per capita basis, India’s energy use and emissions are less than half the world average, as are other key indicators such as vehicle ownership, steel, and cement output. Over the coming years, millions of Indian households are set to buy new appliances, air conditioning units and vehicles. To meet growth in electricity demand over the next twenty years, India will need to add a power system the size of the European Union to what it has now. The Government of India has over the last few years launched several initiatives, such as, setting up the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), founded in 2002, which works with state governments to improve their energy efficiency needs particularly in domestic and rural regions, and the Energy Efficiency Services Limited, founded in 2009, to focus on making domestic lighting more efficient. To give one example of what this means for India, looking at constructions as just one example, the Energy Conservation Building Code is estimated to help in achieving 50 per cent reduction in energy use by 2030. Another promising initiative has been the Smart Cities Mission, first announced in 2015. According to the BEE 300 mn tons of CO2 were saved, thanks to this initiative.
Dissecting the energy usage in the country, industry represented 41% of all energy consumed in India in 2021, domestic usage following 2nd at 26%. With domestic representing over a quarter of all energy usage in the country of which HVAC consume 39%. HVAC accounted for around 35% of the carbon emissions in a typical building according to data from 2014. The typical household can reduce its energy use (and by extension its greenhouse gas emissions) by 25 to 30 percent by investing in more efficient energy consumption. Our investments in companies such as SustLabs, aimed to track energy usage to help residences to track and reduce their energy usage and use more efficient appliances. “You can’t reduce what you can’t measure.”
When it comes to industrial energy usage, motors, and the equipment they drive account for 63% of the total energy consumed through the sector. Most of the electricity used in the industrial sector is for motor-driven systems, making them one of the largest electricity consuming ends uses globally. Electricity costs account for more than 90% of the total lifetime cost of ownership for a typical industrial electric motor. The number of motors in use will continue to grow while low-efficiency motors still represent two-thirds of all motors used today. Improving the efficiency of motors and motor driven systems therefore plays an important role in reducing ownership costs and slowing electricity demand growth.
The purchase price of an electric motor only accounts for 2%-3% of its total lifetime costs with almost 95% is electricity. Most purchasers of motors make the common mistake judging the product on the purchase price ignorant of the real costs incurred, i.e., the purchase cost plus the cost of energy consumption. To put the importance of improving energy efficiency in motors in context, a 1% increase in efficiency to each motor in North America would lead to a cost savings of up to $1.4b a year. Similarly, companies that develop and implement a motor efficiency program have on average received energy cost savings of 33%. Companies like Atomberg fans are using BLDC (brushless DC) motors in their appliances and companies like Turntide (valued at $1 bn+) are revolutionizing the entire SRM (Switch Reluctance Motor) usage, all to achieve lower energy consumption by motors.
Which brings us to the realization that perhaps we do not need to provide a complete overhaul of the energy sector. Fixing only some of the most energy intense appliances can have a substantial impact on reducing our energy consumption. Just as Sustlabs, Atomberg fans and Turntide, are just few of the examples helping move the needle when it comes to energy efficiency, a greater focus by both the private and the public sector can go a long way in getting us towards a net-zero future.