Appreciating the impact of sustainable energy

Innovation, energy efficiency & renewables can help us reduce global warming, says Anirban Ghosh, CSO of the Mahindra Group on the Business Standard website in India.

 

Energy efficiency and the path to 2 degree

The greenest power is the power you don’t have to produce – Anonymous

The most appropriate reaction to the announcement of the intended withdrawal from the Paris Accord by the President of the United States is for other member countries of the Paris Accord to be even more resolute in implementing their commitments and reaping the commercial benefits accruing from such action apart from the massive contribution it will make towards the cause of reducing global warming. It is extremely likely that corporations in the US who contribute significantly to emissions will continue to follow the right path as it is ‘green’ in more ways than one.

Energy efficiency is acknowledged as the primary climate change solution and estimates indicate that it can take us almost 70 percent of the way to the goal. The Guardian reported that 90 corporations cause two-thirds of these emissions. So unless the issue of energy with all its ramifications is tackled by corporations, the climate change issue will not be solved.

Evangelists of energy efficiency are not telling us anything new. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that historical actions taken in 11 developed countries since 1970’s saved 1.3 Gigatons of oil equivalent in 2011. A report by Climate works estimates that energy efficiency policies help reduce costs by about $ 250 billion each year across Brazil, China, Europe, India, Mexico & United States already.

Even though the subject is not new, action has been ramping up exponentially in recent times. In India, for example, the government is making LED lights happen. According to the manufacturer’s association till a couple of years ago less than 5 million LED lights were being used in the country, and now India is poised to emerge as the largest market for lighting systems based on LEDs, thanks to the Narendra Modi-led government’s UJALA (Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All) schemes. According to government sources India was buying 770 million LED bulbs every day at one point leading to the price of LED bulb to come down to 55 pence (Rs 52) from over 3.5 pound (Rs 332) two years ago. Manufacturers see investments multiplying 24 times from the current level in less than 5 years to cater to future demand.

The need for energy efficient products is triggering innovation. The product portfolios of organisations are helping consumers become energy frugal with new energy efficient products accounting for a large and growing part of their revenue portfolio. Once upon a time there was a song that went ‘Video killed the Radio Star’; there can be a hundred songs like that now because energy efficiency is triggering innovation and a number of old technologies and products are on their way out.

Energy efficiency is proliferating.195 nations signed the climate deal. With its withdrawal, US is now bracketed with Nicaragua and Syria. The Paris deal still has more signatories than any other UN deal ever. And India is at the forefront. The National Action Plan for Climate Change has 8 high impact programs. There is an energy rating program that has made air-conditioners about 70 percent more energy efficient. The cement industry has moved from using 1000 kCal/kg of clinker to 680 Kcal/kg, very close to the world best of 650 Kcal/kg.

This is just one part of the energy story. There is also a very strong renewable energy story. Solar is literally hitting the roof with solar energy prices hitting rock bottom! The latest auction led to suppliers in India quoting around 5 cents per unit of solar power. Very soon case studies will be written about how solar energy stopped coal in its tracks.

While there may be anxiety in the journey to ‘well below 2 degrees’, innovation, proliferation and scaling up of actions in energy efficiency and renewable energy still generates hope that we will get there.

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