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Insulating India's energy

13.12.2016  05:28

India’s substantial and sustained economic growth has significantly increased the domestic demand for energy and will continue to do so even further over the coming years. This poses vast challenges of both economic, strategic and environmental character, as the dependency on fossil fuels continues to rise despite efforts to increase renewable energy sources.

A report from McKinsey Global Energy Perspective projects primary energy demand in India more than doubling from 2010 to 2030 with a continued focus on fossil fuels. India already consumes more energy than can be produced through domestic capacity, and as such is increasingly dependent on importing energy from foreign nations. India is estimated to hit 51% primary energy import in 2030 making it one of the world’s top import-dependent countries in the world. By comparison, the US and China are projected to import 1% and 20%, respectively.

From an industrial perspective, insulation dwarfs every alternative investment in enhancing energy efficiency.  Stone wool insulation has huge, often overlooked savings potentials, with payback periods as low as 2 months. Stone wool is made of molten stones spun into fibre-like structures. The raw materials used, such as dolomite, coke, and basalt, are natural, readily available and sustainable sources. Stone wool is non-combustible, has excellent thermal properties, is noise absorbing, water repellent, dimensionally stable, and is vermin and rot proof. Insulation is undoubtedly the single most profitable way of reducing running costs and CO2 emissions, and there is a massive incentive for both policymakers and developers to implement the proper solutions.

To demonstrate the importance of proper insulation, consider this example of isolating a steam valve with the following conditions: The steam pipe has a temperature of 220 degrees Celsius, is located outside, where the temperature is 20 degrees Celsius and has a diameter of DN150. Given these conditions, this single uninsulated valve will result in an annual energy loss of 2895 euros. Insulating the valve will prevent 80% of the heat from escaping, resulting in annual savings of 2300 euros. The investment in insulating the valve is a mere 200 euros, meaning that the project has a payback period of fewer than two months.

The environmental and economic value proposition of insulation for an industry is clear, but it is far from limited to this area. Buildings and housing are the largest overall consumers of energy – Europe uses 41% of all energy on buildings, Singapore uses 49% and Malaysia uses 51%. In India, the built-up area has more than doubled during a period of only 5 years.

It is possible for India to ensure a stable and adequate energy supply for the future. Increasing the energy efficiency is a very cost-effective and environmentally sound way to do so, and pragmatic solutions such as insulation play an important role. There is an element of urgency, and policymakers need to emphasize the need for green solutions in the construction of tomorrow’s India, whose future energy situation depends on it.

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