Zero Energy Buildings, Decarbonising India By Tapping The Sun

Indian buildings are silent energy guzzlers. They account for 35% of India’s overall power consumption and generate a significant amount of greenhouse gases. Because of ever-increasing population and urbanisation, the construction (and energy consumption) of buildings has seen a rampant rise. The next decade is expected to witness massive volumes of building construction, which will further escalate energy consumption.

While there is a strong policy-push towards the adoption of renewable energy technologies such as rooftop solar photovoltaics (RTPV), the potential for making zero energy buildings has not been explored extensively – even though experiments across the world (and India) have shown the possibility.

Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEBs) – 100% energy-efficient, sustainable buildings – can be a game changer, not only for India’s building sector, but also for the energy sector. NZEBs have lower energy demand than that of conventional buildings and produce at least as much energy as they consume in a year, through onsite renewable energy technologies. NZEBs are commonly grid-connected to save battery costs. This allows them to draw electricity at night and during cloudy days, and return an equivalent amount of electricity to the local grid on sunny days. Thus, it nullifies the net carbon emissions from buildings.

In the Indian context, proactive government initiatives encourage decentralised solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, such as RTPV and (to an extent) integrated solar photovoltaics (BIPVs). However, this has not evolved into an integrated policy that looks at achieving zero energy consumption from buildings.

Such green buildings can significantly support India’s Nationally Determined Contribution target to reduce the emissions intensity of GDP by 33–35% (from the 2005 levels) by 2030. Beyond this, NZEBs can emerge as a beacon for scaling up decentralised solar photovoltaic generation and support the efforts of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) as well. NZEBs can help mitigate the consequences of climate change by bringing a revolution to both the construction and especially the energy sector.