- Prof Mattheos Santamouris, Expert in High-Performance Architecture, University of New South Wales, Sydney
With a population that exceeds 1 billion, India's consumption of energy resources influences the end budget as well as the global environment. Evidently, it is important for the country to adopt sustainable procedures to contribute towards lower energy consumption, better environmental quality and fewer CO2 emissions. 'The main focus should be on how to really translate problems into opportunities,' says Prof Mattheos Santamouris, an expert in high-performance architecture at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. 'By developing sustainable technologies, India will improve the environmental quality and economy, generate wealth by creating jobs, have an added value by decreasing CO2 emissions, and create awareness to address similar problems in other developing countries.' Santamouris, a professor at various other universities and Director at the Laboratory of Building Energy Research, University of Athens, shares more on what it will take for India to meet its energy crisis in conversation with SERAPHINA D'SOUZA.
What according to you could be a challenge for an emerging economy like India to achieve its sustainable vision?
The main problem of India is how to improve the living conditions and general quality of life of the low-income population. At the same time, India has to face specific problems like pollution, high energy consumption and low environmental quality. These challenges have to be turned into opportunities; for example, investments have to be done by improving the building stock of India. These investments cost a lot of money but are necessary to improve the environmental quality of the building sector. In the electricity domain, if a policy is applied and appropriate technology is designed and produced, it will provide for additional jobs, which will in turn offer investments in developing India. With this technology, there will be a better and more sustainable environment and it will contribute to the country's economic development.
From your experience, how should a building be designed to ensure it is sustainable for the long term?
For India, building is a more important segment that needs a powerful medium of proper housing, but will present a huge cost. Significant steps need to be taken on how the country will proceed with its building standards. The real challenge for India is to build appropriate technologies for the building sector that will contribute towards reducing energy consumption, protect people from indoor and outdoor pollution and, in turn, reduce CO2 emissions. It is extremely important to set objectives in the overall design of buildings, communities and societies: To protect human health, decrease environmental load caused because of buildings, have an affordable and sustainable cost and, most important, for India, support the low-income group. Once these targets are set, considering all these characteristics with proper environmental quality check including indoor air quality and pollution, proper research can be undertaken on the appropriate technologies to be implemented to achieve them. India can be a leader among developing countries in the building sector by developing energy-efficient technologies, energy conservation technologies, and technologies for new energy for communities.
What measures can be considered to achieve the net-zero concept and optimise energy performance in a residential building?
Net-zero energy means satisfying 100 per cent energy, environmental and sanitary positions, and health conditions - with minimum energy consumption. This requires advanced energy-efficient technology to be applied in resources. However, India has to set an objective that will really improve the environmental and energy consumption of the existing stock with minimum energy consumption and the highest possible efficiency. So, we have to optimise the final result on the environmental positions and the use of zero-energy technologies in the building stock of India.
What about solar technologies, considering India has great potential in generating solar energy?
It is important that policies - like the use of solar or other renewable energy -are framed properly, incorporating technologies that are efficient and present a high value. Solar technology decreases energy consumption, which in turn decreases the environmental burden, but these technologies should be produced and used locally, which can contribute to the development of the economy by possibly exporting to other countries. Solar systems for the future should be designed and fabricated in India, and not imported by other countries.
The magic word here is not solar, it's Indian solar.
What globally adopted innovations would you recommend to build sustainable cities and societies and to fulfil the smart cities vision in India?
Most people consider a smart city as one where IT technologies are applied. In reality, however, it is a city that really solves specific problems. The problem of India is tremendous pollution, increase in temperature because of the urban skyline, local climatic change and poverty. There needs to be a programme designed for the city, where you have to combine mitigation technologies, pollution technologies, R&D technologies and other technologies in an integrated way to meet the characteristics of Indian cities. So, India does not need to copy the plans or strategies of a smart city as applied in other countries, because Indian problems are different.
Tell us about recent innovations in low-carbon technologies used globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that can be adopted in India as well.
India needs to first satisfy the needs of the population in terms of liveability; if not, the risk will increase with the increase in energy consumption. Once India reaches the proper level of liveability, it has to prioritise on how to decrease energy consumption. People's comfort needs to be taken care of by adopting appropriate technologies, which are not conventional but present the lowest possible footprint in the lowest possible cost. In the next year, additional needs for electricity will be so high in India and so will be the additional cost for power plants. So, it is extremely important that India designs a smart policy towards next year to avoid the remarkable increase in energy-consuming systems available in the market and promoted by big companies. The main target should not just be to decrease CO2 emissions but to have a more sustainable environment by creating more jobs and opportunities for the country. If India looks at a holistic approach for the future, where sustainability is combined with economic development - where one shapes the other and bonds with the other - the country has a bright future.
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