Over 78 per cent of the total emissions in the Indian Himalayan region are from space heating in residential dwellings in rural areas, with 71.4 per cent attributed to the northern states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, according to a recent report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
Around three per cent of overall emissions from space heating are attributed to commercial buildings, the remainder 97 per cent is reported from the residential buildings. Out of this, almost 19 per cent of overall emissions are from urban residential buildings and 78 per cent are from rural residential buildings.
The Indian Himalayas are one of the most ecologically fragile regions in the world. Given its cold climatic conditions and unavailability of a regular source of power and limited financial capacity of local communities, people in the Indian Himalayan region often resort to fuelwood to provide thermal comfort in their built environment.
The traditional space heating mechanisms not only contribute to the increasing emissions of the region but also lead to the degradation of natural resources and adversely impact the health of people residing in these areas.
It is in the light of this that the WWF India TERI have released a report titled, ‘Sustainable Space Heating Solutions in the Himalayan Region’ that studies the impact of the adoption of new clean energy technologies on emissions in the region.
The study suggests that sustainable space heating systems can bring down carbon dioxide emissions by 30 per cent in the Indian Himalayan region by 2030.
The report highlights the possibility of a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from space heating in the Himalayas from the projected 17.8 MT by 2030 under a business as usual (BAU) scenario to 12.3 MT through the use of efficient technologies.
Currently, the emissions from space heating for the year 2020 stand at approximately 15.9 million (MT) of carbon dioxide, for the entire Himalayan region, equivalent to annual emissions generated from about 27 units of 200MW thermal power plants.
The development and deployment of innovative solutions developed by MSMEs thus have a tremendous potential to not only reduce the rising emissions but also decrease indoor air pollution and its associated health hazards.
However, limited financial capacities of households and lack of awareness have been identified as the primary barrier to a slower than required transition from traditional fuelwood based heating to more efficient and clean energy-based sustainable space heating technologies despite their availability.
Speaking on the issue, Dr. Sejal Worah, Programme Director of WWF India said, “The Himalayas are a very heterogeneous region and the space heating solutions have to be designed to be responsive to both community needs and the ecological fragility of the region.”
Sejal added that sustainable space heating systems can greatly improve the comfort and well-being of people, reduce impacts on natural resources and address the global issue of climate change from increasing emissions.
“While there is no dearth of innovation in this space, the challenge lies in the reach and uptake of these solutions in these regions.”
The report highlights the role of the MSMEs, innovators and start-ups in developing and mainstreaming sustainable technologies. It also identifies inadequate access to capital and skilled workforce, along with dense legislation and statutory compliance as barriers to this transition.
If implemented well, the use of new technologies can supplement the pace in achieving the target of emissions intensity reduction of India’s GDP by 33-35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.