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The road to a ‘self-reliant’ India must be sustainable

As India learns to cope up with the challenges posed by the COVID-19, it is simultaneously adapting to a rapid industrial transformation. The country is evolving into a viable alternative investment destination on the back of the Government’s manufacturing linked incentives, as global manufacturing and supply chains get readjusted to the seismic shifts brought about by the pandemic.

However, the road to prosperity has its own set of obstacles and challenges. While industries are the growth engines of our country’s economic development, they are also highly energy-intensive. They contribute to about one-fourth of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, as most of the industrial processes continue to run on traditional fuels and technologies.

According to the International Energy Agency‘s (IEA) forecast, India will overtake the European Union as the world’s third-largest energy consumer by 2030. It will account for the biggest share of energy demand growth over the subsequent two decades. Although the lockdown measures in 2020 put a brief pause on global emissions, the world relies heavily on fossil fuels and countries will have to adopt more sustainable ways to tackle the problem of climate change.

India has set a target of a 35 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, from 2005 levels by 2030.

However, to meet its climate goals under the Paris Agreement, India will have to further ramp up its efforts to decarbonize the industrial sector. That work has already started with some remarkable initiatives to improve energy efficiency in industries.

The Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme, launched by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) is a market-based mechanism that sets specific efficiency targets for energy- intensive sectors. Companies that exceed the target will get incentives in the form of energy-saving certificates. They can trade them to companies that have failed to achieve their efficiency targets.

Other positive measures include the government’s priority on ensuring higher share of renewables in the energy mix, as well as the launch of Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme to promote large scale adoption of electric vehicles.

Raising the bar on energy efficiency

Industrial electric motors may not be highly visible, but they are found in every imaginable built environment, from heavy industries to facilities that produce food and beverages, water and wastewater facilities, and commercial buildings.

Electric motors have undergone a period of exceptionally rapid advancement in the last decade, with models today that are over 95 percent efficient. This technology can play a crucial role in bringing significant energy efficiency improvements in India’s industry and infrastructure.

Motor efficiency is rated according to a scale published by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Some of the very latest motors meet the IE4 standard, which specifies energy losses about 15% lower than those delivered by IE3 motors. The more recent IE5 “ultra-premium efficiency” motor represents the highest level of efficiency.

Today, India is lagging behind other large countries in adopting new motor technologies to ensure energy efficiency. While China and the EU have upgraded their Minimum Energy Performance Standard to IE3, in India, the minimum efficiency level still remains at IE2. The country should raise its benchmark on energy efficiency and encourage the adoption of higher efficiency versions of motors that are on par with the global standards.

Variable speed drives for optimizing energy use

While upgrading a motor offers significant efficiency gains, greater energy savings are achievable when it is used in combination with a variable speed drive (VSD). A VSD adjusts the amount of electricity consumed by the motor to match the exact amount of energy needed at any given moment, so no energy is wasted. When added to the existing motor of a pump, fan or compressor, a variable speed drive can typically lower power consumption by 25%.

Cement manufacturers are one of the most intensive energy consumers. Their electrical energy costs account for about 15 – 20 percent of the total production cost. The large fans used in the production process consume a major part of electrical energy. Traditionally, Indian cement producers use Cascade converters (also called Slip Power Recovery Systems (SPRS)) to control the speed of process fans. However, with the use of VSDs, the energy consumption can be reduced from 90 kWHs/ton to about 70 kWHs/ton of cement produced.

Digitalization, a key enabler for optimizing energy savings
Digitalization and connectivity – the ‘industrial Internet of things’, can be a key enabler in improving energy efficiency. Innovative digital solutions such as smart sensors for electric motors and connected drives will make it possible to monitor their performance remotely and to securely collect data. Analyzed data can be used to optimize performance and maximize significant energy savings.
In the coming decades, digital technologies will transform energy systems around the world, making them more connected, intelligent, efficient, reliable and sustainable. India should also accelerate its digital infrastructure development and leverage the potential of smart factories to connect people, processes and machines to achieve better energy efficiency and output.

India is on the path to galvanize its economy to become a ‘self-reliant’ nation. In this journey, we should also be prepared to address the potential environmental concerns and work together with all the stakeholders to ensure a sustainable future for our citizens. Businesses should prioritize sustainability and integrate more energy efficient technologies into their operations. This will help our country in achieving its economic and environmental goals.



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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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