CSE analysis of Delhi's power consumption paints a dark picture

The UN slogan of “Consume with Care” for this World Environment Day sounds hollow in the face of untamed electricity guzzling in Delhi

CSE analyses power consumption in Delhi this summer

  • Even as the AAP government is clamouring for new power plants to make Delhi sufficient in electricity supply, it is indifferent to consumptive use of subsidised electricity to meet the gluttonous appetite for energy-intensive air conditioned comfort and pollution

  • CSE analysis exposes how peak demand for electricity between day and night shows little difference as household demand for air conditioning peaks as well

  • The amount of electricity that is subsidised for each household is more than the average consumption in Delhi and the country. No wonder Delhi has consumed more electricity last year than all the other metros put together

  • There is no effective policy in Delhi today to bill electricity to discourage over consumption or actively promote energy efficiency measures to cool down the buildings and reduce energy demand

New Delhi, June 5, 2015: Delhi does not walk the talk when it comes to following the UN message on this World Environment Day -- “Consume with Care”. Cheap electricity, rising incomes and badly designed buildings that trap heat have led to the adaption of energy-intensive active cooling practices in the capital.

A Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) analysis of energy use in Delhi has identified the domestic (household) sector as the biggest guzzler of electricity. Says Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE’s executive director-research and advocacy and head of its Sustainable Urbanisation programme: “While the AAP government in Delhi is only concerned with increasing electricity supply and subsidising consumption, it has not paid attention to the urgent need to also reduce consumption with controls and energy pricing. This is imposing enormous environmental and economic costs.”

She adds: “While it is important to improve energy access for all especially for the poor, steps are also needed to promote prudent and sustainable consumption of electricity.”

The AAP government gives power subsidy of 50 per cent for monthly consumption up to 400 KWh. Delhi’s average consumption is only about 181 Kwh, and nearly two-fifths of the households consume less than 100 KWh per month. The subsidy, thus, allows comfortable use of a number of appliances like air-conditioners etc and cushions substantial household energy costs. The government must mandate energy audits, compulsory disclosure of annual energy consumption and more effective consumption-based billing.

The results of the CSE analysis

The CSE analysis of electricity consumption this summer attempts to understand the trends and nature of demand in the city and the likely impacts of the growing dependence on air conditioning to escape the heat. The key highlights are as follows:

  • Lack of energy-efficiency measures is making Delhi an energy guzzler: According to the newly released report of the Central Electricity Authority on Load Generation Balance Report 2015-16, Delhi is consuming more electricity than the states of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Sikkim and all states of North-east. It also uses more power than all the other metros put together. Already, in Delhi, the household electricity consumption per capita is about 43 units per month against a national average of 25. Currently, domestic power tariff in Delhi is the lowest amongst all metros.

  • Excessive peak demand: Delhi’s peak demand has doubled in the last 10 years, growing faster than the population of the city. Delhi registered an all-time high peak demand in June last year at 6,006 MW. This demand was higher than the combined highest ever peaks of Mumbai, Kolkata and Chandigarh! CEA projects Delhi’s peak will cross 6,300 MW this year and 12,000 MW by 2021.

  • Nearly the same peak demand for electricity noticed during day and night this summer indicating enormous impact of air conditioners in middle class homes: CSE has analysed the trend in demand for electricity during night and day. It notes that the day peak builds up late in the afternoon around 3:30 PM and the second peak hits around midnight. There was barely any difference between night and day peaks during the month of May. For example, on May 24, while the day peak demand was 4667 MW the night peak demand was 5091 MW: the night demand was either higher or had a very small difference in the range of 1-4 per cent. This, when at midnight all commercial consumers – offices and retails -- are closed. Says Avikal Somvanshi, senior research associate with CSE’s sustainable buildings programme: “It is the air conditioners in homes that skew the demand at night. This trend is starkly opposed to the trend in most other metros when demand during the night is lower than daytime as power-intensive sectors like industries, shops, offices and malls are closed.”

  • Growing reliance on air conditioning upsets the energy balance in the city: In Delhi, air conditioning now accounts for the highest consumption of electricity during the hottest months, accounting for about 28 per cent of the total monthly electricity consumption. According to an estimate by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), ACs contribute to almost 60 per cent of Delhi’s peak electricity demand.

The 68th Nation Sample Survey of Household Consumption of Various Goods and Services in India found that in 2012, about 412 out of every 1,000 households in urban Delhi own an air conditioner or air cooler as compared to the national average of 77. The survey noted that while ACs accounted only for 15 per cent of the national average, in metro cities their share can be as high as 60 per cent. AC sales have been growing at a healthy 8-10 per cent annually and the industry is expecting it would accelerate to 15-20 per cent in coming years. Nationally, energy demand from ACs is expected to increase 10 times by 2030.

  • Energy-inefficient building stock: Intensity and duration of AC use can be reduced substantially if buildings are designed more sensibly to reduce the heat gain. The summer heat is being trapped by climate insensitive construction and highly concretised urbanscapes. Inappropriate architectural design and material used in hot climate of Delhi like glass-dominant structures, predominant use of concrete, and use of large windows and flat concrete roofs without shading traps a lot of heat. Even though the nights are cooler buildings cannot release heat effectively, require active cooling.

  • Other governments intervene to define cooling needs: Without proper policy guidance there is a misconception that drastic lowering of thermostat setting of the AC to as low as 18-19 degree Celsius will provide the desired comfort. But with every degree reduction in thermostat setting, there is increased energy consumption of three to 10 per cent. But by setting the AC a couple of degrees higher and using fan to blow cool air uses a lot less electricity. Tests in Tokyo indicate that raising the air conditioner's thermostat from 26oC to 28oC and using an electric fan can reduce electricity consumption by up to 22 per cent. After the Fukushima disaster when Japan faced a major power crisis, the Japanese government mandated that all ACs in the country should not run at temperature settings lower than 28oC. It introduced the Bush Shirt rule to relax dress codes at workplaces to encourage comfortable clothing.

In fact, the National Building Code of India (NBC) states that the thermal comfort of a person lies between temperature values of 25°C and 30°C with optimum condition at 27.5°C which is also influenced by age, metabolic rate and clothing and climatic condition.

The way forward

It is clear that only a supply driven subsidy policy for electricity can prove to be counter-productive and perpetuate energy crisis forcing more and more power generation at a high environmental and economic costs. But savings possible by influencing demand for electricity can help to a great extent prevent the unintended consequences of energy insecurity, pollution and climate impacts.

Both Delhi government and national government must step in to:

  • Delhi government should introduce mandatory energy audit and consumption based energy billing to improve operational efficiency of all buildings.

  • Make it obligatory for all buildings to disclose publicly the data on annual energy usage along with the built up area.

  • Implement post-construction performance, accountability and transparency to ensure that the buildings remain high performing.

  • Incentives for green buildings for developers should be linked with stringent benchmarks and not with minimum green measures that all buildings must do. Set quantifiable energy performance targets for different building typologies to reduce overall energy intensity and consumption over time.

  • Bureau of Energy Efficiency should reform Energy Conservation Building Code to make the efficiency requirement more climate sensitive. Create more policy opportunities for use of natural ventilation, shading and day lighting to improve thermal comfort and reduce mechanical cooling of spaces inside buildings and also over use of glass in facades.

  • Bureau of Energy Efficiency should improve building star rating programme and make star rating mandatory to improve operational performance.

  • Bureau of Energy Efficiency should make appliance rating more stringent for quicker uptake of super efficient technologies. Push the AC industry to provide more energy efficient AC to Indian consumers. BEE needs to adopt aggressive ratcheting up of minimum efficiency standards in India and device fiscal measures to make most efficient technology is also most cost effective.

  • Need policies for improvement in thermal comfort of the houses being made for the poor.

  • Bring housing sector within the ambit of energy efficiency measures. The Energy Conservation Act of 2001 doesn’t regonise domestic sector as energy guzzler and excludes it from all the efforts which are being made to conserve energy. This should be amended.

  • City needs to have an extreme heat action plan which helps reduce formation of urban heat islands and reduce the cooling load on the grid.

For more on this, please ccontact Souparno Banerjee at souparno@cseindia.org / 9910864339.