Greenhouse Pollution Drops in China, India Thanks to Low-Tech Fixes

Mark Anderson
for National Geographic News
July 19, 2006

Dramatically reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in the developing world could be as simple as installing new boilers and fluorescent lights, according to a new study by the United Nations and the World Bank.

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Bank recently released their final report on a pilot energy-efficiency project in the developing world's three leading economies: Brazil, China, and India.

The report reveals that energy use in these countries can be slashed by 25 percent using simple, low-tech innovations.

This reduction could translate to a substantial cut in both greenhouse-gas emissions and air pollution, because coal-fired power plants provide much of the electricity in these countries, the report stated.

The Three Country Energy Efficiency Project, conducted from December 2002 until May 2006, collaborated with Chinese, Brazilian, and Indian energy consulting firms to help owners of local mills, factories, and office parks to cut their power use by as much as a third.

The project tapped the World Bank to help these regional firms—called Energy Service Companies, or ESCOs—buy equipment such as energy-efficient air conditioning units and steam boilers.

These quick fixes have resulted in prompt payoffs in terms of energy reduction, according to Mark Radka, head of UNEP's Energy Branch.

"There are very good potential investments in energy efficiency—replacing boilers, upgrading lighting systems," he said.

"Just like if you bought a compact fluorescent bulb. You shell out a little more money than you might for an incandescent bulb, but it pays for itself relatively quickly."

India Energy Savings

At the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi, India, for instance, the project helped New Delhi company DSCL Energy Services install new lighting and air conditioning that cut the hospital's energy bill by 25 percent.

DSCL also worked with three Indian companies to upgrade boilers and pumping systems, netting energy savings of 15 to 38 percent.

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