The India Energy Hour


Urbanizing India: Impact on energy demand and climate

As India’s urbanization continues to surge, its energy needs are on an upward trajectory. With a rapidly increasing population and a growing middle class, the country’s energy demand is poised to play a significant role in the global energy landscape. This discussion between Shreya Jai and Siddharth Singh sheds light on the complex interplay between urbanization, energy consumption, and climate change mitigation in India.

The Energy Appetite of Urbanization

India is witnessing a transformative phase of urbanization as more people migrate from rural areas to urban centers. Alongside this urbanization wave comes a surge in the adoption of electronic appliances, such as air conditioners (ACs) and refrigerators. While this increased usage is beneficial for those seeking comfort, it poses a substantial challenge for India’s battle against extreme weather and climate change.

The Air Conditioner Conundrum

One of the most striking aspects of this discussion is the rapid rise in the use of air conditioners. ACs are set to become one of the largest contributors to energy demand in the country. Currently, their prevalence is higher in urban areas, primarily among high-income households. However, this is changing, and a study by AEEE suggests that by 2028 or 2030, nearly half of urban households will have ACs.

This surge in AC usage presents a significant impact on energy demand. By 2040, the energy load variation on the grid could increase fivefold compared to today, leading India to become a global leader in batteries to manage these fluctuations. The need for energy-efficient appliances, buildings, and behavioral changes becomes apparent.

The Importance of Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency emerges as a key solution to mitigate the growing energy demand’s impact on the environment. According to Siddharth Singh, residential peak cooling demand could be reduced by up to 25 gigawatts through energy efficiency measures alone. However, energy efficiency efforts face various challenges, including lack of awareness, skilled labor shortages, and the need for government enforcement.

Innovative Cooling Solutions

Thinking beyond traditional air conditioning, there’s a call for innovative cooling solutions. Examples like TERI’s Goalpara campus showcase the potential of passive cooling techniques, where air is pumped underground to provide natural cooling. Commercializing such technologies and making them attractive to consumers are essential steps in the right direction.

Transportation Transformation

Urban transport is another critical aspect of India’s urbanization challenge. With approximately 270 million people expected to move to cities, the country needs massive and sustainable transport infrastructure. The shift towards greener transportation alternatives is crucial to curb emissions. The way people move within cities, how public transport is designed, and the comfort it offers are essential factors in encouraging public transit use over private vehicles.

Understanding Emissions Implications

The discussion also addresses the emissions implications of these scenarios. India’s energy choices and policies will significantly influence global emissions. Siddharth Singh highlights four key scenarios: Stated Policy Scenario, India Vision Case, Delayed Response Scenario, and Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS).

In the Stated Policy Scenario, energy demand grows by 70%, and emissions grow by 45%.

The India Vision Case sees a 15% larger economy but 10% lower emissions due to greater investments in energy efficiency.

In the Delayed Response Scenario, a smaller economy leads to 10% lower emissions.

The Sustainable Development Scenario achieves 60% lower emissions despite a 20% increase in energy demand.

India’s Global Role in Emissions Reduction

India has become a central player in the global energy conversation due to its projected energy demand growth. The country’s approach to managing this growth while reducing emissions will have repercussions worldwide. Achieving a balance between economic development and environmental responsibility is paramount.


India stands at a crossroads, facing the challenge of satisfying its growing energy demands while mitigating the effects of climate change. The key lies in energy efficiency, innovation, and ambitious climate action. As the world watches, India’s choices will not only determine its own future but also influence global efforts to combat climate change. Balancing development with sustainability is the defining challenge of our times, and India’s journey will be closely observed and learned from worldwide.

(Access the complete interview by tuning in to the TIEH podcast available on our website and other major podcast platforms.)

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