Education for Sustainability
The Energy Sector
Girish Sant , Prayas, Pune

We need to urgently enhance the services that energy provides, while improving efficiency of energy use. This would not just keep our energy consumption under control but also reduce the social and environmental impacts associated with energy production and use; and keep costs under control. This requires better choices by energy consumers, changed role of workers in the energy industry, as well as better planning by energy policy makers and implementers. In short meeting the mammoth goal of achieving rapid development while maintaining energy security and controlling impact on global warming needs changes in paradigm implicit to our institutions, reflected in planning as well as day–to–day operation of systems and consumer habits.

Awareness and education at all levels is urgently required to achieve this mammoth task of doing a course correction and adapting a to new paradigm. Educational efforts need to reach out to all major actors in the energy sector, that is, consumers, the utilities and other implementation bodies, and policy makers. This short article gives examples of the large task we have in front of us along with the large impact that can be achieved through a modified vision and behavior.
Education for Consumers
Energy consumers need to be educated on the impact of their actions and provided information which can help them to change their actions. Hardly any consumer is aware of the wide difference in the energy consumption of similar looking appliances that are being sold in the market. Figure 1 shows the large potential saving by choosing a specific model of refrigerator. Less dramatic, but similar story exists for almost all appliances and industrial processes. Education through such means can improve consumer choice and reduce energy consumption in addition to increasing sales of efficient appliances, creating an incentive to produce more efficient appliances.

The Akshaya Prakash Yojana is a good example of what education for consumers can do in terms of community action. This was a Voluntary Load Reduction Scheme in villages and Small Cities run by the Maharshtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd. (MSEDCL) under which the MSEDCL offered to substantially reduce the load shedding hours on the conditions that (a) the citizens/users do not run any power intensive appliances, such as flour mills, water pumps during the evening peak hours and (b) the community comes together to identify and stop the power theft (hooks — that powered the water heaters and electric hot-plates). As a result, the agricultural pumps got reliable supply at good voltage, overall electricity consumption reduced and MSEDCL could reduce or even remove the load shedding in these villages. The scheme rapidly expanded to nearly 5,000 villages and resulted in saving over 900 MW. But unfortunately, the scheme was wound up due to reducing benefits — due to lack of proper monitoring and control by MSEDCL. Figure 2 shows a heap of water heaters removed by the villages under the Akshaya Prakash Yojana. Community actions such as these are important and are possible only after education campaigns that preceded the Akshaya Prakash Yojana.
Water heaters voluntarily removed in Maharashtra village under Akshaya Prakash Scheme
Courtesy Mr Girish Sant

Although sizable power theft is by urban rich and industry, the rural areas are not free of the malice. Power intensive devices such as water heaters and cooking hot-plates are being used in conjunction with power theft by rural poor.
A spectacular public awareness campaign was carried out in Thailand some years ago. As a curtain raiser, a country–wide advertisement campaign was done to sensitize people about resource wastage in their daily life. The campaign culminated in a one-hour programme which was aired on all TV channels, at prime time. The programme itself started with a series of statements from experts within the power sector and celebrities who spoke on energy efficiency and the need for demand side management and how individuals can make a difference. The key point in the programme came when the consumption of electricity through the day was shown as a graph, including the consumption at that moment. At this point, viewers were requested to switch off any one appliance that was not being used at that time. And within a few minutes, the graph that was being generated in real time, showed a significant dip in consumption as one–by–one gadgets were switched off all across the country. To put this example in our context, just one lamp put off by each consumer in India can reduce the power need by as much as 7000 MW — three times Enron’s Dabhol plant!

Education for Industry
It is not uncommon that industry and appliance manufacturers themselves have little idea of potential impacts of their actions. There have been several examples of major awareness campaigns for the industry, which have yielded significant results. Under a program, some of the European countries initiated series of actions to improve awareness among the industry CEOs. In addition to pointing out the potential saving in their industries the governments instituted tax benefits to industry meeting targets of reduced energy usage. In several cases, these targets were met much earlier than expected, resulting in government announcing new targets for increased energy saving.

Appliance manufacturers have a much larger impact on the economy and energy consumption. However many manufacturers are too small to have the capability to invent or adopt efficient designs on their own. In the mid 1970s, California commissioned the Berkley National Lab to carry out a detailed study on mechanisms to reduce the energy consumption of refrigerators. This source–book was freely given to all manufacturers and then they were told to ensure that their products meet the efficiency standards being set by the government.

The case of Japan is very illustrative. The Japanese government promoted awareness on the importance of efficiency in a big way, following the oil price shock in the mid–1970s. Even today, Japanese products — are recognized for their energy efficiency. Japanese cars and motorcycle designs lead in efficiency. This has contributed to their success in terms of capturing major share the in world market. Another indicator of this has been the Japanese oil consumption level, which remained steady for decades after mid 1970s despite the country achieving major economic growth.

Awareness building of CEOs along with change in incentive structure or imposition of standards / rules are critical for rapid and dramatic changes.

Education of Planners
Utility managers and energy planners are the most critical actors, as they can shape policies and government actions that have long–term and deep impacts on society. Most managers and planners have grown–up in a paradigm that has been supply–based and without limits to consumption. When we need to change the paradigm, they need to be made aware of the possibility of a different paradigm as well as tools required to operationalize the new paradigm.

California provides an example of how policy makers and manufacturers and utilities worked together to reduce energy consumption. The per capita consumption of electricity in California has remained stable since the mid 1970s while the US national average consumption has increased since then by as much as 50%. Figure 3 shows the per–capita consumption of three states and the US average.

Per-capita Electricity consumption in different states in the USA
The per-capita consumption of Texas or even the US average has been steadily increasing. California has been an exception. Since, mid 1970s, its consumption has remained constant. Utility and government led programs to conserve electricity; building and appliance efficiency standards and changed incentives have been the major drivers for this change. (Source – Presentation by Jayant Sathaye, Leader, International Energy Studies Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA)
In 1976, California faced the possibility of having to build a nuclear power plant to meet energy needs. The California government realized that the energy consumption by refrigerators in the state was equivalent to building five plants of the type planned. Improving the energy efficiency of the refrigerators would offset the need to build a new power plant. Stringent appliance standards were adopted by California and this led to improved home refrigerators as mentioned earlier. California adopted a different mode than most other states. The utilities promoted efficient appliances through information campaigns and rebate schemes for consumers. In the process the utility avoided the need for building expensive new power plants.

Two years ago, Prayas and Bureau of Energy Efficiency (of the Ministry of Power, Govt of India) organized a workshop to promote the efficient lamps (called CFLs). In recent years, several states have embarked upon schemes to replace the incandescent bulbs with CFLs. The Uttar Haryana Electricity Company has taken up a massive campaign to replace the regular incandescent bulbs with good quality CFLs. High initial cost and lack of availability of good quality CFLs was a barrier for consumers — both were linked to the small market share of CFLs. Utility intervention has made CFLs available easily and widely, at a low cost. The Haryana campaign includes a publicity campaign, a guarantee on the life of CFLs, a scheme to take back/replace worn out bulbs, and a provision to avail of 3 coupons while paying the electricity bills to buy CFL lamps.

The role of education in radically changing the paradigm in transport sector is also noteworthy. Cities in several countries are changing the way they look at transport systems — these are being designed to move persons rather than creating space for moving cars! Efficient public transport, cost–based pricing of road tax on cars are some of the tools used for this transformation. Reduced congestion, reduced travel time, reduced energy consumption and air pollution have been some of the advantages of this change. Some cities in India have started this process in a small way. Interest free loans were given to taxi drivers in Delhi, who were willing to convert to CNG. Pune is experimenting with Bus Rapid Transit System and so on.

Policy formulation is not a one–time task and hence continued awareness and education is essential. Policies made today would bring about changes over a few years, which have to be assessed — did changes take place, what was effective, and if not, what prevented positive changes from occurring. Policy formulation is an iterative process and educational processes can help at all levels — policy formulation, implementation, evaluation and refocusing.

Education plays a key role especially during evolution of a paradigm. This is a large task considering that we have thousands of planners and managers in key positions in energy utilities. Media leaders are critical in shaping public debate. The numbers are much larger in the energy consuming industry and appliance manufacturing industry. If we do a good job in educating them, wider awarenesas building of consumers can become a manageable task.

For more information contact:
Girish Sant
Prayas, Athawle Corner, Karve Road,
Deccan Gymkhana, Pune 411004
Ph: 020-65205726; Fax: 020-25420337

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