In 2013, India became the third largest consumer of energy, surpassing Japan and Russia. In recent years, India’s energy consumption has been increasing at a very rapid pace due to population growth and economic development. India is facing severe energy poverty and pervasive power deficits, as the demand far exceeds the energy supply. Combined with the impacts of climate change on livelihoods, lack of access to energy poses an enormous challenge to India’s goal of achieving inclusive economic growth.
Improving energy efficiency in buildings is a critical way to address this crunch. Studies show that buildings are responsible for over 30% of the total energy consumed in India – along with prodigious amounts of land, energy and water resources. And as they consume, they also generate significant amount of waste and carbon emissions. Indian corporates have a brilliant opportunity to make their buildings the most efficient one, as two thirds of the commercial buildings of 2030 are not yet built.
A major chunk of energy in buildings is consumed by heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), lighting and computer systems. Many buildings have over-designed and outdated systems due to the use of thumb-rule calculations. These calculations needn’t reflect the use of the building or the behavior of people inhabiting it. In order to achieve energy efficiency in a cost-effective manner, it is imperative for corporates to implement innovative designs and technologies that will help overcome the daunting challenge of energy scarcity.
At Infosys, we believe in change through resource innovation. Buildings are our biggest consumer of energy and we are striving to make them highly efficient. Over the last six years, we have been able to avoid the consumption of over 660 million units of electricity. Today, we have reduced our per capita energy consumption by 44 percent and our per capita water consumption by 34 percent as compared to our consumption in 2008.
Some of these efficiency improvements were achieved through large-scale retrofit projects in our existing buildings. The Infosys campus in Sholinganallur (Chennai) underwent retrofits in most of the energy intensive areas. The most important one being in the chiller plant room. Old water chillers and pumps have been replaced, the piping system has been optimized, and variable frequency drives have been installed – on each equipment in the chiller plant. This has been done at a cost of INR 20 million with the lifespan of equipment being over 20 years. The steps taken have freed up almost a third of the space that was previously occupied in the plant room. This retrofit alone has reduced the plant energy consumption by over 40 per cent with a payback period of less than three years. The lighting system has been retrofitted with LEDs which are expected to last for the next 10 years, improving illumination by about 51 percent at a cost of INR 18 million. The return on investment for this retrofit is less than five years.
Some of the other important interventions at Infosys campus in Sholinganallur (Chennai) have been elaborated below:
- Older air-cooled Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) units replaced with chilled-water-based units which are free from harmful refrigerants and require lower maintenance as compared to the previous system
- Conventional UPS systems replaced with modular UPS systems, leading to an increase in an average efficiency of 19 percent
- Major facade retrofits work have been undertaken in datacenters, UPS, and battery rooms including wall insulation
- High-albedo white paints (SRI value greater than 75 percent) on roofs in order to reduce heat gain and minimize air conditioning loads
- East-west oriented rooftop solar PV systems installed with a capacity of 307 kW, providing shade
It is not only important to invest in innovative technologies while constructing new buildings, but it is also paramount to look at the holistic benefit of retrofitting existing buildings. The payback period of these retrofits is very attractive with a life span of new equipment being more than 10 years. This makes a strong business case for other corporates to emulate. With our focused efforts, we will continue to work towards making this world a sustainable place for not only the current generation but also for the generations to follow.
V.V.S. Suryanarayana is Regional Manager, Infosys
Image: The Infosys Shols Campus
McKinsey & Company- Environment and Energy Sustainability – An Approach for India
Credit: Ashwin Kumar