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The US President-elect’s stand on climate change, amongst other things, has been a hot topic of discussion since the election day. As the world fears losing a leader in the fight against climate change when Donald Trump takes charge of the oval office later this month, all eyes are set on China and India to fill this void.

India hogged the limelight last year by promising to cut down carbon emissions by 33-35% from 2005 levels by 2020. To achieve this target, the major focus was put on renewable energy and the government has thus been promoting it in every nook and corner of the country. But over a year later, with only a little progress made, keeping the tall promises made at UNCCC 2015 seems impossible. What is lacking is not the intent, but the building pressure of out-shining in the clean energy sector while also fighting the other problems that a developing country faces, poor access to electricity being one of them. India’s per capita energy consumption stands at a little over 600kWh compared to China’s 2,122kWh.

In a country where people still rely on biomass for cooking because of limited access to alternatives, how does one expect to find enough financial support that is required to become the world leader in clean energy? Leonardo’s “Before the flood” brought out well this dilemma that India faces. We are a country that is pressurized to live up to the expectations of the developed world while still developing when the developed world caused the problem in the first place. But India, a strong country that it is, never ran away from the issue at hand and has been fighting climate change tooth and nail. The increased awareness among the citizens about clean energy, pollution, and global warming is one such example.

To strike a fine balance between two major requirements – provide electricity to all and reduce carbon emissions, India needs to put some focus on the energy efficiency sector. Per the world bank’s data, T&D losses in India stand at a whopping 18%. Those are just 1 of the many ways energy is wasted. A large proportion of energy that finally reaches the consumer is wasted either due to poor quality or unnecessary operation of appliances.

The energy efficiency sector has seen a little traction in the past few years with LEDs and 5-star ACs gaining popularity. But there is still a long way to go since most Indians cannot afford to invest in these retrofits. The good thing is that that is not the end of it. Energy efficiency does not just mean replacing appliances with efficient ones, although that seems like the only possible definition, it also means to use energy wisely, or improve “operational” energy efficiency.

The next time someone says that there is nothing they as an individual can do to help the climate, ask them to switch OFF the lights for just 1 hour every night or switch OFF the air conditioning for 30 minutes before usual.

Energy efficiency is a hidden sector that, if exploited to its full potential, can help India not just meet its targets but also take the lead in the fight against climate change.

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