Urbanising India: Impact on energy demand and climate

Urbanising India: Impact on energy demand and climate

India's relentless urbanisation is accelerating its energy requirements

New Delhi: India's relentless urbanisation is accelerating its energy requirements. With a burgeoning population and a burgeoning middle class, the country's energy demand is set to assume a pivotal role on the global energy stage. This dialogue between Shreya Jai and Siddharth Singh illuminates the intricate interplay between urbanisation, energy consumption, and climate change mitigation in India.

India is undergoing a transformative era of urbanisation as more individuals migrate from rural areas to urban centres. With this urbanisation wave comes a surge in the adoption of electronic appliances like air conditioners (ACs) and refrigerators. While this increased usage brings comfort to many, it poses a substantial challenge to India's struggle against extreme weather events and climate change.

The air conditioner conundrum

One of the most noteworthy aspects of this discussion is the rapid proliferation of air conditioners. ACs are poised to become one of the largest contributors to energy demand in the nation. Presently, they are more prevalent in urban areas, particularly among high-income households. Nonetheless, this landscape is evolving, with a study by AEEE suggesting that by 2028 or 2030, nearly half of urban households will own ACs.

This surge in AC usage presents a significant impact on energy demand. By 2040, the energy load variation on the grid could increase fivefold compared to today, turning India into a global leader in batteries to manage these fluctuations. The need for energy-efficient appliances, buildings, and behavioral changes becomes strikingly evident.

Energy efficiency emerges as a pivotal solution to mitigate the adverse effects of growing energy demand on the environment. According to Siddharth Singh, residential peak cooling demand could be reduced by up to 25 gigawatts through energy efficiency measures alone. However, energy efficiency endeavours face several challenges, including a lack of awareness, shortages of skilled labour, and the necessity for government enforcement.

Innovative cooling solutions

Thinking beyond conventional air conditioning, there's a call for innovative cooling solutions. Examples like TERI's Goalpara campus showcases the potential of passive cooling techniques, where air is channeled underground to provide natural cooling. Commercialising such technologies and making them appealing to consumers are pivotal steps in the right direction.

Urban transportation represents another critical facet of India's urbanisation challenge. With approximately 270 million people expected to migrate to cities, the country requires substantial and sustainable transport infrastructure. Shifting towards greener transportation alternatives is imperative to curtail emissions. The way people move within cities, the design of public transport, and the comfort it offers are all vital factors in promoting public transit usage over private vehicles.

The discussion also delves into the emissions implications of these scenarios. India's energy choices and policies will significantly influence global emissions. Siddharth Singh highlights four key scenarios: Stated Policy Scenario, India Vision Case, Delayed Response Scenario, and Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS).

In the Stated Policy Scenario, energy demand grows by 70%, and emissions grow by 45%.

The India Vision Case envisions a 15% larger economy but 10% lower emissions due to greater investments in energy efficiency.

In the Delayed Response Scenario, a smaller economy leads to 10% lower emissions.

The Sustainable Development Scenario achieves 60% lower emissions despite a 20% increase in energy demand.

India has become a central player in the global energy conversation due to its projected energy demand growth. The country's approach to managing this growth while reducing emissions will have repercussions worldwide. Striking a balance between economic development and environmental responsibility is paramount.

India finds itself at a crossroads, contending with the challenge of satisfying its burgeoning energy demands while mitigating the effects of climate change. The key to success lies in energy efficiency, innovation, and ambitious climate action. As the world watches, India's choices will not only determine its own future but also influence global efforts to combat climate change. Balancing development with sustainability is the defining challenge of our times, and India's journey will be closely observed and learned from worldwide.

(This is an excerpt from an episode of the India Energy Hour. Tune into the podcast for more conversations on climate and India's green energy sector, where we uncover trends, challenges, and solutions. Available on all major podcast platforms and our website)

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