Berkeley Lab lends expertise to India to promote energy efficiency

India may rank only a distant fourth in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, behind China, the United States and Russia, but its rapid economic growth rate coupled with aging and inefficient energy infrastructure suggest dire environmental consequences if “business as usual” continues. That’s why experts from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have been working to expand collaborations with India on energy efficiency.

A combination of various energy efficiency measures — including greener buildings, a smarter electric grid, more efficient home appliances and more advanced industrial and manufacturing processes — have the potential to eliminate India’s electricity shortage, reduce pollution and decrease its emissions of greenhouse gases, while boosting the country’s economic output by as much as $500 billion over the next eight years, according to a theme paper that was presented this week in New Delhi at the Second U.S.-India Energy Efficiency Technology Cooperation Conference. The paper was co-written by researchers from Berkeley Lab, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and ECO III.

Already, Berkeley Lab scientists have assisted several Indian regulators and utilities in setting up demand-side management, including training staff, analyzing costs and monitoring savings. “By sharing best practices among technical experts and regulators, we were able to help selected Indian utilities initiate demand-side programs in less than one year, which only a handful of states in the United States have achieved in the 30 years since utility reform began,” said Jayant Sathaye, head of Berkeley Lab’s International Energy Studies group.

Sathaye gave the keynote presentation at the conference and was a lead co-author of the paper; other Berkeley Lab scientists at the conference were Dale Sartor, a leading expert on energy efficiency for data centers, and Girish Ghatikar, an expert on smart grids and demand response. All three work in Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD).

The conference, co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, USAID, India’s Ministry of Power, and India’s Confederation of Indian Industry, is just one sign that exchanges with India on energy use and carbon emissions are poised to grow. India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency is also supporting the conference, as is the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is simultaneously leading an energy efficiency trade mission to India this week.

Separately, Energy Secretary Steve Chu was in India last week meeting with Indian leaders to discuss opportunities for partnerships on clean energy technologies. “Tackling climate change and moving toward a clean energy economy requires action both at home and abroad, and I am encouraged by the progress we are seeing on both fronts,” he said in a statement from India.

As in China, India’s electricity supply is dominated by coal, which provides nearly 70 percent of the total. Another 35,000 MW of new coal-fired power plants are planned to come online by 2012, representing 250 million tons of potential new carbon dioxide emissions, or about 20 percent of the country’s total emissions in 2006. Much of the rising demand for energy comes from the emerging middle class, as more and more people purchase TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners and other appliances; vehicle ownership is also forecast to rise rapidly.

India must import oil and natural gas to meet its energy requirements. Still, the country experiences frequent shortages; daily power outages are a fact of life, even in the largest cities. The gap is often filled with small, inefficient diesel generators, which are highly polluting. Making matters worse is what the industry terms “energy loss” — essentially thieves who siphon electricity from the grid without paying. Loss rates are as high as 50 percent in rural locations.

Berkeley Lab has started working with Indian companies and government agencies in both the U.S. and India in several areas.

Green Buildings

Collaborations with Berkeley Lab’s Building Technologies Department on technologies such as advanced windows, day lighting, heating/cooling systems and demand-side management are in the works.

When India first started building information technology parks to attract Western companies, they were built to Western standards. “Now they’re saying, ‘what can we do to improve that model?'” said Sartor. “They’re in a position to be the standard-setter rather than standards follower. We’ve been talking to them about, instead of building architecture with a capital ‘A,’ that’s glitzy with lots of glass, we’re suggesting they build their new buildings with a capital ‘S’ for sustainability. India has the opportunity to change the paradigm. They’re going to building a lot more buildings than we will here.”

Separately, Berkeley Lab conducted a one-year experiment in 2006 in Hyderabad on two nearly identical buildings: one with a white roof and the other with a standard roof. The result was a 5 percent reduction in electricity consumption in the building with the white roof. That was enough to convince New Delhi’s Chief Minister to approve mandatory white roofs for all new government buildings this past July. “She saw the benefits immediately and was very enthusiastic,” said Sathaye. “That was a big step forward.”

Data Centers

The explosive growth of the Internet and the related use of digital media digitization of everything have caused a massive expansion of data centers around the world. A 2007 report to the U.S. Congress noted that data center energy use in the U.S. doubled between 2001 and 2006, accounting for 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2006. The situation in India is similar but even more significant, given that its economic growth is based largely on the information technology industry.

Through an initiative led by DOE and USAID, Berkeley Lab has been working to help India make its data centers more energy efficient, including holding workshops and developing a benchmarking program. “We’re helping to stimulate interest and build capacity,” said Sartor.

Smart Grid

As the United States pursues its own smart-grid initiative, Berkeley Lab is exploring ways to share its experience and expertise with India, where the grid is still rudimentary. Furthermore, effectively integrating renewables such as solar and wind energy, which are growing in India, is a technical challenge that its current grid is incapable of meeting.

Beyond the substandard infrastructure, India is also in need of technical advice on energy policies and rate structures. For example, many rural areas still provide highly subsidized electricity, despite the shortages. “Subsidies alone don’t encourage efficiency,” said Ghatikar. “With programs emphasizing sophisticated rate structures, interoperability standards and information systems, they can eliminate or reduce blackouts through dynamic pricing and reduce electricity losses.”

Berkeley Lab’s ongoing work in India was formalized in 2008 with the launch of the Berkeley-India Joint Leadership on Energy and the Environment, or BIJLEE (which means “power” in Hindi). In March 2009, the Lab signed memoranda of understanding with New Delhi and the Forum of Regulators, a national-level body, to consult on best practices in utility-based energy efficiency programs. The California Energy Commission and the California Public utilities Commission were also signatories.

“We’re not there preaching they should emulate the United States and our experience,” said Ashok Gadgil, acting director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division. “In fact, just the opposite: we’re suggesting they should leapfrog our experience. India’s energy consumption is significantly lower than that of the U.S. and Europe, so they have an opportunity now to grow in a sustainable way.”

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research for DOE’s Office of Science and is managed by the University of California. Visit our Website at www.lbl.gov/.

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