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While India is aiming for mandatory implementation of the code for energy-efficient buildings by 2017, Andhra Pradesh has adopted it already

Andhra Pradesh’s adoption of green building code can save enough energy to run 8.9 million Indian households by 2030 (Image by Anton Fomkin)

Andhra Pradesh’s adoption of green building code can save enough energy to run 8.9 million Indian households by 2030 (Image by Anton Fomkin)

Andhra Pradesh has taken a giant leap in energy efficiency. This January, the state government formally adopted a code to boost construction of energy-saving green buildings. The new state of Telangana, which split from Andhra Pradesh, is following suit. The two states together may end up saving energy sufficient to power 8.9 million Indian households annually by 2030, according to an analysis done by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI).

“Energy conservation is fundamental to supporting the economic development of our state and the ECBC is a critical step to saving energy,” says P.K. Mohanty, former chief secretary of Andhra Pradesh.

The Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) was launched in 2007 by India’s ministry of power as a stepping stone to promote energy savings in the building sector. It was originally developed by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency(BEE) under Section 15 of the Energy Conservation Act.

It lists norms for eco-friendly designs of building envelopes, lighting systems, HVAC systems, electrical, water heating and pumping systems. These in turn can help cut energy consumption by 40-60% in commercial and high-rise residential buildings.

The analysis by the NRDC and ASCI shows that ECBC has a huge potential for power and economic savings. If all Indian states adopt the green code, it is estimated that 3,453 TWh of electricity could be saved by 2030 – enough to power 358 million Indian households. Latest estimates say around 400 million Indians are without connection to the electricity grid.

The new building code is also expected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by a whopping 1,184 million tons per year.

The code is crucial considering India is a country where two-thirds of the buildings needed in 2030 are still to be constructed. Therefore, there is an urgent need to find solutions to minimize the use of limited resources, energy and fight climate change at the same time.

But several challenges have prevented a blanket implementation of ECBC across India. For instance, energy is a concurrent subject as per the country’s constitution. So even though the Energy Conservation Act said every state has to go forward with this code, the centre could only guide the states on the matter. It could not enforce anything.

“Thus, in 2007, when the Ministry of Power, through BEE, came up with the ECBC, the former could not tell the states that it has to be mandatory, so the centre came up with a voluntary code in the same year,”says Rajkiran V Bilolikar, assistant professor, energy area, ASCI.

While BEE – the nodal agency that regulates all energy efficiency related activities and policies in the country – tried to make the code more acceptable to consumers, government and the builders, it did not succeed because of the problem of split incentive.

“Normally in the building sector, once the real estate owner or developer constructs a building, the benefits of energy conservation go to the consumer or the person who is using the premises. The builder will not get any benefit out of it. Therefore, he wonders why he should invest more and construct an energy efficient building,” adds Bilolikar.

He also believes that Indian consumers do not think about total energy utilization over a period of time but just worry about the initial capital investment.There is another problem. “Energy is under the Ministry of Power, but buildings come under the administration of the municipal department. Therefore, the question arose: under whose purview would the energy conservation of buildings come,” Bilolikar points out.

Now Andhra Pradesh has shown the way by making ECBC mandatory and adopting it formally as a state law. It has achieved this by customizing the code to tackle the issues in a unique manner.

The other states that have since adopted ECBC are Rajasthan, Odisha, Puducherry and Uttarakhand. Ten more are in various stages of adoption.

How Andhra Pradesh overcame barriers

Andhra has opted for a flexible ECBC that offers a ‘Prescriptive Method’, which provides a list of requirements for code compliance; and a ‘Whole Building Performance Method’, which uses architectural design software to optimize the building’s energy performance while minimizing costs. Having both options means developers, architects and designers can respond to changing technologies and prices over time.

The state government has also held extensive consultations with the stakeholders before formulating and implementing the code. The code was approved by a government steering committee comprising of developers, builders and efficiency experts, as well as ASCI, the Indian Institutes of Information Technology and NRDC.

Apart from this, the state has put a robust mechanism in place to ensure compliance. Instead of relying on the service provider (in this case, the municipality), it has opted for third party validation.

Explaining the need to do this, Srinivas Chary Vedala, Dean of Research and Management Studies, Director – Urban Governance, Infrastructure, Environment and Energy, ASCI, says, “We have so many laws but implementation is a big issue. There are speed money, components, and transparency related problems. A third party financial auditor, who comes and validates the book of accounts of an agency, will be able to do it more objectively.”

Stressing the need for capacity building, he adds, “Without good capacity, the ability to construct, design, is a big issue. Implementing it through municipal officers is also a big issue. So, that’s where with the help of the AP government, the ASCI, NRDC and Indian Institutes of Information Technology created a comprehensive capacity building framework. We need to build capacities upfront, even before a regulation comes into place, otherwise the credibility of that initiative would be undermined.”

Andhra Pradesh managed to come up with one of the most robust ECBC codes through pilot studies that were undertaken by ASCI and NRDC with the support of the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation and Climate Works in 2010-11. The studies looked into various barriers and perspectives of stakeholders and came up with several eye-opening results.

They revealed that the financial bodies and utilities were not that keen on adopting the measures. Financial institutions saw no point in offering low interest rates to developers because energy conservation itself gives economic benefits. Builders showed reluctance as well due to lack of proper incentives.

Bilolikar adds, “We also realized that some kinds of incentives need to be provided to real estate developers. This means that once they submit the building design to any municipal body, it should be approved in 15 days or one month. For buildings coming under the code, we persuaded the government to give them priority. ”

Even as Andhra Pradesh is gearing up for a phased-in implementation plan that will include training 800 government officials as the code becomes effective in August, it is to be seen if more Indian states will take a cue and adopt an equally robust norm for a greener and cleaner future.


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