Friday Night Musings: Energy Efficiency enters a New Phase in India

CLASP's Senior Director, Bishal Thapa shares insights into his conversation with Mr. Abhay Bakre, Director General of India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency. As India scales up climate change mitigation efforts, this conversation dives into new strategies to leverage efficiency to meet India's carbon reduction goals.

On most occasions Friday evenings are a time to wind down, close the hecticness of the week and open a window to a weekend ahead. But on Friday, May 27 we hosted Mr. Abhay Bakre, Director General of India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) for an engaging conversation that opened a different window into how energy efficiency in India is entering a new phase in India.

This March, BEE celebrated two decades of existence. Established through the Energy Conservation Act (ECA) to serve as the lead agency on energy efficiency, the institution has evolved considerably over the past twenty years.

“The Paris agreement changed everything,” Mr. Bakre says, outlining how it repurposed energy efficiency as a movement. Today, India is pursuing a new approach to energy efficiency, vastly differently from its early days. Efficiency policies are driving deployment of new technologies and solutions, not only to reduce energy use but to contribute towards emissions reductions.

Energy efficiency is now central to India’s climate response strategy – efficiency is projected to deliver at least half of India’s emissions reductions goals of 1 billion tonnes by 2030.

“Affordable, climate friendly, and more effective for long-term growth,” Mr. Bakre outlined the three key principles driving efficiency policy formulation. Energy efficiency has become integral to India’s energy transition, helping to accelerate the process by promoting climate-friendly technologies and solutions, making them affordable to drive climate friendly growth and development.

Mr. Bakre listed cooling as one key priority for BEE. India’s current cooling use is small, only at 6%-8%. Future cooling growth will place a massive strain on the country’s energy use. Mr. Bakre believes that improvements in cooling efficiency have already been on a “good trajectory”. BEE’s focus is on enhancing those policies so that the most efficient cooling solutions are available and affordable to all Indians.

One of BEE’s flagship initiatives are minimum efficiency policy standards through the standards and labelling (S&L) program, delivering approximately 30% of the total energy use savings from energy efficiency. Mr. Bakre intends to expand the program, broadening the scope to include a wider range of technically complex equipment, such as boilers, chillers, and pumps, that are applicable for commercial and industrial applications.

The opportunity for emissions reductions from energy efficiency is immense and immediate. “But are we doing enough to make it happen?” Mr. Bakre asks, adding that this is what keeps him awake at night – with financing as a key challenge. Financing is critical to make relevant technologies and solutions affordable so that the decision to adopt them are not postponed. Today, financing on energy efficiency in India is about $340 million annually. This is small relative to the scale of the opportunity and the need.

It is hard to end the work week on Friday evening on a question of “Are we doing enough?” Clearly, there is much more to be done for climate in India and the world. Yet, India is well positioned to accelerate energy efficiency as long as we prioritize collaboration and resource mobilization.

Watch the full dialogue here.

This conversation was hosted as part of CLASP’s India Dialogue Series, a monthly discussion that aims to address the many facets of energy efficiency and appliances.

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