Energy Transition in the Indian industry

We are at the cusp of monumental changes across the world on many fronts like water, waste, energy management and foremost is multi-layered climate threat which has systemic implications on multiple fronts like agriculture, water, health, and overall its impact the economic systems of the country.

My own journey in energy transition began in the 60’s when I was in the 3rd standard. I was studying in the summer heat of Jamshedpur and I was reprimanded by my eldest sister for using the fan. She switched off the ceiling fan and asked me to learn to bear the heat while studying without use of electricity.

In hindsight, I am extremely grateful to her, she taught me EE-energy efficiency, resilience, adaptation and mitigation – the words that are being used in the context of how to tango with climate change! Those lessons I did not forget and I could sit in a room in Delhi’s summers without a fan.

Dancing with complexity

I learnt EE in the deep bliss of a small pond in extreme geographical isolation when I was posted in Port Blair to run a small hotel in 1988. We stopped use of paper in many areas like moving from paper caps to cloth caps for the kitchen staff, the wasteful practice of using brown paper in the drawers of the guest rooms was replaced with lining the drawer with velvet cloth – a durable decision, made manure out of food waste – it did not go to the landfill site, repurposed spent cooking oil to soap for washing utensils.

All these simple steps seem insignificant but it has two dimensions, that of avoiding waste and defiling our natural resources lakes, rivers the seas and more importantly, the embodied energy of many products is avoided.

Our hotel was situated on a hill slope and I observed that the soil was going into the sea during the heavy monsoon in Port Blair. Being a naive hotelier those days, the only thing that came to my mind was to address the soil erosion by cementing the slopes.

My engineer reminded me that Charles Correa, the architect of the hotel, had conceptualized the hotel design in such a way that people were brought close to the beautiful nature in whichever direction of the hotel they walked in. The cementing of the slopes would deface the beautiful surroundings.

I was clueless about the concept of biomimicry in 1989, however, I observed that the spent tender coconut shells were littering Port Blair. We picked up a truck load of the unused shells. It was cut into half and anchored on the hill slope of the hotel, it helped us to arrest the soil erosion as opposed to using cement, sand and aggregate. It was my first foray into dematerialisation, a word which I didn’t think about 34 years back.

Similarly, my office did not have AC in the mezzanine floor and the humidity was high, post monsoon. Instead of requisitioning for air an conditioner, I asked my engineer to puncture a hole in the ceiling and make a chimney on the top. My office became comfortable due to hot air going out naturally leading to thermal comfort of the occupants.

The reason why I am relating these examples is that today in world of declining resources and increasing population we have to think of radical, feasible ideas in resource reduction on a scale.

BEE has been playing a stellar role in reducing energy consumption through EE – energy efficiency through schemes like PAT- perform achieve and trade, ECBC- electricity conservation building code have been set for large buildings. Star rating code: 3, 4, 5 – star has been mandated for refrigerators, a/c.

The BEE certified AC carries a message that for every 1* temperature you raise, the electricity bill will come down by 6%. In 2017 the minister of power stated that the country has saved Rs 86,146 crores of energy through energy efficiency measures of BEE

Through consumer awareness, people buy devices which help to save power cost and give them returns in a stipulated time depending on the hours the device is used.

Recently fans have come under the ambit of BEE star rating. Old fans consume 65 watts of energy whereas EE fans introduced in the market consume 28 watts, more than 50 % savings over the conventional fans.

Hotels can dovetail these EE fans in the rooms and set the room AC temperature at 26 degree C as opposed to 18 to 20 degrees setting.

See the big picture

There is huge a potential of saving 15 to 20% energy on our current installed capacity. How can this be implemented? How do we discover hidden opportunities from the context of energy management in our country?

Delectable opportunities

There are millions of rest rooms across the globe where the lights are on 24×7, by adopting flexible service design, these lights can go off when there is no occupancy and light up when occupied (one or two lights can be on constantly from a safety angle). Similarly in the back of the house of many hotels the lights are on 24×7.

Organisations need to audit such locations and install day lighting fixtures and in the night bring the flexible lighting design into play. The same principle applies to millions of exhaust fans running 24×7. They should sense and operate on basis of occupancy.

Many hotels have beautiful views from the windows, yet all lights are put on with the smart card system when the guest enters the room during the day. If the curtains are opened, then there is no need to put on the lights in the day time (subject to time of the day and depending on agro climate conditions of the location – not recommended in the summer months)


Earth heating cooling: The ambient temperature 3 metres below the earth’s surface is always 23 degree C. Hence this can be used for cooling in summer and heating in winter. This technology can be used in new buildings and retrofitting in old building. The NIIT campus in Neemrana operates at 28 degree C in summer, when the outside temperature is 42 degree Celsius. CSE has started.

Waste heat recovery from DG set, air-conditioning plant is being used for heating water in many establishments

Solar energy through solar concentrators is an excellent example of biomimicry for generating steam for different applications.

Optimise the size of rooms not more than 300 sq feet, like in Japan. This reduces material intensity and energy use.

To summarise there are many areas where energy is being wasted, there is need to sharpen people’s perceptual skills.

Energy efficiency is the world’s ‘first fuel’ – and the main route to net zero, says IEA chief.


Niranjan is Ex General Manager Environment Initiatives of ITC hotels. He pioneered the concept of eco designing in Welcomgroup Bay Island in Port Blair. Niranjan has headed CII’s Renewable Energy cell and Founder and ex president of Andaman & Nicobar tourism guild.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *