Green Buildings, Water Partnerships Aim to Reduce India’s Energy Load

Green Business Centre at Hyderabad
CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre at Hyderabad.

The World Clean Energy Awards, announced in Basel, Switzerland, on June 15, recognize innovative, practical projects that move renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions into the mainstream. Developed by the independent transatlantic21 Association, the awards are intended to create benchmarks for clean energy in seven categories: construction; transport and mobility; products; services, trade, and marketing; finance and investment; policy and lawmaking; and NGOs and initiatives. The Worldwatch Institute was one of eight organizations invited to participate in the nomination and jury process. Eye on Earth will run a weekly feature on each of the nine winners.

On June 15, the World Clean Energy Award in the category of “Services, Trade and Marketing” was awarded to two innovative projects in India: the Green Business Centre (GBC) and the Water Energy Nexus Activity (WENEXA). The GBC, a joint initiative of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, and the Confederation of Indian Industry, represents a unique model of public-private partnership for energy efficiency in India. The WENEXA project, also a joint project between USAID India and other groups, seeks specifically to boost energy and water efficiency in agriculture.

Established four years ago in Hyderabad, the GBC is considered a leading Indian center for energy, environmental, and climate change activities. “The creation of the GBC was mostly an inspiration driven by the need to promote alliances between various stakeholders to advance sustainable businesses,” explains Srinivasan Padmanaban, Senior Energy Advisor for USAID India and a key architect of the GBC concept. Specifically, it seeks to inspire energy efficiency in large- and small-scale businesses through the use of renewable resources and sustainable construction.

The Centre helps businesses carry out environmental audits for new and existing construction, implement innovative energy-efficiency technologies, and develop financial plans for sustainable business practice. It awards its recognition for “green” buildings through the U.S. Green Building Council’s internationally acclaimed LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) approach, and boasts the first building outside the United States to obtain the LEED Platinum rating, the highest possible. The center has registered more than 40 buildings in India for green certification, three of which have achieved the Platinum grade.

The Water Energy Nexus Activity (WENEXA), in contrast, seeks to address inefficiencies in Indian agriculture. According to Padmanaban, the agricultural sector uses nearly 30 to 35 percent of India’s electricity supply, mainly for water pumping and irrigation. Because farmers often get their electricity for free or at very low cost, many are buying pumps that are energy-intensive and reach deep underground, causing India’s water tables to fall at a rapid rate. The power supply in rural regions remains highly unreliable and often poses a loss to utilities due to over-burdening of grids and illegal squatting of connections.

The WENEXA project aims to promote policy dialogue at the state and national levels to develop innovative, market-based models that combine the twin goals of reliable power distribution and water-use efficiency. Current WENEXA pilot projects using energy-efficient pumps and wastewater recycling have been well received by state governments as well as the water and energy sectors. However, Padmanaban notes that uniting the water and energy sectors into mutually reinforcing programs remains a challenge, with a need for more local solutions and national schemes for effective energy and water management.

Padmanaban says receiving the World Clean Energy Award will bring heightened national and international attention to the work of both the GBC and WENEXA, including a chance to extend their impacts beyond the current audience of 2 to 5 million people. With increased recognition, “the process of moving towards a national sustainability code will be expedited, with industries and individuals adopting energy and water use principles while growing in a sustainable manner,” he notes.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.