News Article
December 29, 2012

Energy and Buildings in India: Setting a Course for Efficiency

With a population of 1.1 billion people and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, India is experiencing a rising demand for energy. This growth has presented a challenge to the energy infrastructure, as evidenced by some startling statistics from the Central Electricity Authority’s Load Generation Balance Report 2010-2011.  This assessment of the country’s anticipated electric power supply and demand for that period found that, nationwide, available energy is projected to fall 10.6% short of overall needs, and energy supplied during peak periods will fall 12.1% short of demand.  This projected imbalance between supply and demand foretells a major reliability problem and an uncertain climate for consumers and businesses in need of power.

In addition, India’s rising greenhouse gas emissions have led to increasing scrutiny of the country’s energy system. According to the International Energy Agency, India’s emissions are expected to nearly triple between 2007 and 2030, growing from 4.5% of the world’s emissions today to 8.5% over the next two decades. 

One driver for this increase in energy use and carbon generation is the growth in building stock expected over the coming decades. Based on forecasts of building construction, it is estimated that about 70% of the floor space that will exist in India in 2030 has yet to be built. This trend stands in stark contrast to developed economies like the United States, where new construction is expected to proceed at a much more gradual pace and represent a much smaller percentage of overall floor space.

Figure 1. Projected building floor space in 2030  

As in other rapidly developing economies, Indian homes and businesses will continue to demand more energy to fuel greater productivity and a more comfortable standard of living. Exploding construction raises the specter of significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions and an increasing strain on the energy system; but it also presents a significant opportunity to implement efficiency in new buildings, where it is the least costly.

There are several initiatives underway to take advantage of this opportunity – combining supporting research, innovative programs, and effective policies to improve the efficiency of the built environment in India. Two of the most prominent efforts are the creation of the Government of India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency and the launch of the India-U.S. collaborative ECO-III Project (  These two entities have often worked closely together and, with input and support from dozens of academic institutions and advocacy organizations around the world, have laid the groundwork for significant improvements in the efficiency of Indian buildings.

Bureau of Energy Efficiency

The Government of India institutionalized a national effort to increase efficiency with the release of the Energy Conservation Act in 2001. In addition to authorizing the Central and State Governments to mandate energy efficiency, this legislation created the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) – formally established in 2002 – and authorized it to support energy efficiency at the national level.  The BEE provides research and support for national policy and drives communication initiatives promoting energy efficiency. 

ECO-III Project

The Energy Conservation and Commercialization (ECO) Program was established in 2000 as a collaboration between the Government of India and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).   The ECO-III Project emerged under this program in 2006, and since its launch has promoted energy-efficient technologies and approaches to assist India’s greenhouse gas reduction efforts. Current activities include capacity building (i.e. training, tool development), development of research institutions and industry associations, supporting states in implementing energy efficiency programs, and public outreach.

BEE and ECO-III have collaborated on several key efforts to advance the efficiency of buildings in India. The two most important initiatives are:

  1. Energy Conservation Building Code

    Commercial buildings are already an important piece of India’s energy picture; and with construction rising quickly over the next few decades, they will become even more central to national goals around clean and reliable energy. The rapid addition of floor space presents a unique opportunity for energy efficiency, as implementing efficiency into the design and construction of a new building is significantly less expensive than retrofitting the building later in its lifetime. To capture this opportunity, BEE and USAID have collaborated on developing a voluntary energy conservation code for new large commercial buildings.

    The Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) provides quantitative targets for new buildings, including the heat retention of the envelope (windows, walls, roof) and the efficiency of the space conditioning, lighting, electrical and water subsystems in the building.   The energy code was developed in collaboration with technical researchers, governments, trade organizations and international advocacy groups, leveraging the experience gained through implementation of similar codes around the world. It represents a first step toward improving energy efficiency in an economy that is rapidly transforming and constructing buildings to keep up.

    But releasing a technical energy code is not enough to drive change. Since the release of the code in 2007, the ECO-III initiative and the BEE have launched a campaign to promote its use among builders and contractors. In addition, they have released a suite of tools and supporting materials to make it easy to meet minimal energy-efficiency criteria in new projects, including:

    • A user guide

    • Tip sheets

    • Workshops  and seminars promoting the code

    • A professional certification program

    • Software to check code compliance

    • Technical support and research on energy modeling

    • An educational curriculum enhancement initiative to create awareness about ECBC among future architects and engineers

  2. Energy Benchmarking and Building Labeling

    Measuring progress is a major challenge in the field of building efficiency. One approach to quantifying the efficiency of a building or portfolio of buildings is benchmarking – comparing the performance of one building to others like it. Popular in many business and technology applications, benchmarking presents difficulties for buildings because each is different, and data has not traditionally been available for meaningful comparisons.

    In the United States, these obstacles have been overcome in recent years through innovative programs such as the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager. This tool employs the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) to collect data on energy consumption in buildings and use it as the basis for comparing buildings against their counterparts. When similar buildings are compared on a normalized basis (e.g. annual energy use divided by floor space), it is possible to establish rating systems and labels that communicate energy efficiency attributes to owners, occupants, investors, and other stakeholders. The ENERGY STAR efficiency label, created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, is widely recognized by consumers as a result of decades of application on household appliances and electronics. Applied to the most efficient 25% of buildings, ENERGY STAR is also an effective way of gauging efficiency for the building as a whole.

    BEE and the ECO-III project are applying the decades of experience accumulated in the U.S. to establish a benchmarking and labeling program for Indian buildings. The first task is a comprehensive data collection effort in which statistics on energy use and other characteristics of buildings are compiled. With this data as a foundation, the next step is to offer a benchmarking system by which owners can measure the efficiency of their buildings against comparable facilities. Finally, the Government of India has created the “Star Rating System” to make efficiency information readily available. BEE launched a rating system for office buildings in early 2009, and other building types are being added over time.

    In support of the benchmarking and building labeling effort in India, ECO-III and BEE have continued to examine and refine the methodology for comparing building performance.

These and other initiatives signal that India is serious about enhancing building efficiency as one important way to address power supply-demand concerns and control greenhouse gas emissions.

December 2012



1 Load Generation Balance Report 2010-11, Central Electricity Authority (2010)

2 World Energy Outlook 2009, International Energy Agency. Executive summary available at:

3 Sources: US Energy Information Administration and ECO-III

4 The Gazette of India, Part II Section 1, October 1, 2010 []

5 Energy Conservation Building Code User Guide, Bureau of Energy Efficiency (2009) []

6 Ibid.