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Radhika Khosla’s Blog

How One High-Rise Can Help Drive Energy Savings Throughout India

Radhika Khosla

Posted April 18, 2013 in Solving Global Warming

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The 2013 Clean Energy Ministerial concluded today in New Delhi, with ministers from more than 20 countries meeting to discuss our energy future. As the discussions acknowledged, our climate continues to change, making the transition to clean, sustainable, and efficient sources of energy more important each day. Energy efficiency once again stood out during these meetings out as the fastest, cheapest, and cleanest way to help countries meet their growing energy demands. For India, the host nation, energy efficiency offers a potential escape from a severe energy crisis.

At a high-level panel discussion at the Ministerial side event today, NRDC and its partners released a landmark energy-efficiency building case study, Saving Money and Energy: Case Study of the Energy-Efficiency Retrofit of the Godrej Bhavan Building in Mumbai, confirming that energy efficiency is practical and profitable in India’s rapidly transforming building market. As the case study shows, implementing energy efficiency in buildings is a huge opportunity for rapidly growing cities to save energy and money, while increasing their energy security and addressing the threat of climate change.

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Throughout India, cities are struggling to manage an increasingly stressed energy system. Historic blackouts that struck India last summer tell the story well: 700 million people were left without power, halting trains, trapping miners underground, and endangering patients in hospitals when backup generators failed.

And that energy demand continues to skyrocket, as India’s urban areas experience tremendous growth. Construction is the second largest economic activity in India after agriculture, and the country’s building-occupied area is projected to rise from 8 billion square meters in 2005 to 41 billion in 2030. Real estate developers – who drive demand for building construction – can thus play a key role in incorporating energy-efficiency measures into new and existing buildings to help India achieve a reliable energy future. However, as we find in our work with the real estate community, making the business case for energy efficiency is critical to helping developers recognize the benefits of investing in efficient-building construction.

The case study released today highlights Godrej Bhavan, an iconic six-story office building in South Mumbai, reminiscent of so many other high-rises emerging throughout the city. In 2010, the building owner, Godrej & Boyce, invested in an energy-efficiency building upgrade, improving the lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system, water and energy metering, and more.

The building upgrade cost about USD $99,700 (or Rs. 5,384,000). But this initial investment is paying off, as Godrej Bhavan now experiences significant financial and environmental quality benefits for the building owners and occupants. Only two years after the upgrade, Godrej Bhavan’s electricity use has already dropped by more than 12 percent, representing a 28.6 percent savings in electricity costs. These savings in electricity costs will allow the company to pay back the costs of the retrofit in as little as 4.7 years.

The Godrej Bhavan experience leaves us with important lessons for other building owners and developers as they look to increase efficiency throughout India’s urban areas. These include:

  • Commitment starts at the top: Top-level support for high efficiency and cost savings targets is critical to success. High-level officials within Godrej & Boyce were committed to sustainability and energy efficiency, increasing the resulting savings at Godrej Bhavan.
  • Take advantage of low-hanging efficiency opportunities: It may be difficult for high-performing office spaces to redo building spaces or stop business operations while efficiency measures are implemented. The Godrej Bhavan retrofit shows that by upgrading the heating, air conditioning, lighting, and building management systems, office spaces can maximize energy savings without sacrificing performance.
  • Building operations and maintenance are key: Godrej Bhavan also upgraded its energy management system and trained staff to continually analyze the energy performance of building operations. This allows staff to correct the poor energy performance of systems and further increase energy savings.

Godrej Bhavan makes a simple business argument in favor of energy efficiency. Building owners invested in an efficiency retrofit, are already seeing significantly lower energy costs, and will pay back their retrofit costs in a matter of years. With two-thirds of commercial and high-rise buildings that will exist in India by 2030 yet to be built, the influential real estate industry can play an unheralded role in encouraging energy efficiency throughout the building market.

We look forward to championing the benefits of energy efficiency with India’s real estate leaders, and helping India tackle its energy crisis, increase energy security, and combat the threat of climate change.

This blog is co-authored by Kathryn Wright and Lauren Sanchez. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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