Improved product quality – A way forward to decarbonisation

There has been a 20-fold increase in the number of global climate change laws since 1997. According to Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment there are more than 1,200 relevant policies across 164 countries, which account for 95% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Reports indicate that, India is not only on track of emission reduction as per Paris agreement but over achieving the targets. Policies are helping to increase share of renewable energy in total energy mix, also institutions like TERI, BEE and EESL are doing their share of contribution to bring in energy efficient products and services for both individuals and government organisations.

However, as per a study by Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) about three in four of India’s districts are hotspots of extreme climate events such as cyclones, floods, drought, heat and cold waves. Apparently, focus on both supply and demand dimension of the decarbonisation is required to arrest this global calamity. 

Therefore, India need to bring in required attention on the quality and longevity of the products used by both the individuals and institutions, because generally there is no conscious realisation of the energy and material consumption which takes place during the manufacturing of the products.

According to the International Resource Panel, emissions from the production of materials as a share of global greenhouse gas emissions increased to 23 per cent in 2015 from 15 per cent in 1995. More than half of the emissions from materials is from direct material production processes.

India holds 1/6th of total global population and counting and therefore need for transport, food, buying, using and throwing products are more than even before. In the process we are emitting more greenhouse gases, manufacturing more products, extracting raw material, producing more waste, abstracting more water, destroying more forests, habitats and depleting biodiversity.

We all appreciate the fact that earth is a finite planet and still more than half of the civilization is waiting to enjoy the materialism on earth. The population across affluent parts of the globe like North America, Europe and Japan is reducing considerably, however in developing nations population is in upward trend who yet to experience the materialism which they are getting exposed through western civilization.

Rapid growth and globalization has deepened the environmental issues, therefore in addition to decarbonisation at supply side like electricity production etc. it is important to focus on demand side decarbonisation through long lasting products etc.

From last couple of decades, it has been noticed that individuals, companies and even governments are working towards decarbonisation at their own levels. Studies have shown that requirement of steel, no.1 metal for our civilization, is going down every year by 2% per year. Transportation is getting efficient considerably. Aeroplanes are 70% more efficient as compared to planes in 1958.

But consumption of electronic chip is increasing by 35% every year and the way technology is evolving and population is increasing this percentage will keep on increasing. The costs of electrifying the world’s information and communications networks is rising: it claimed nearly 5% of worldwide electricity generation in 2012 and will approach 10% by end of 2020 (Lannoo 2013).

We need to consider ways in which we could reduce environmental impact from product consumption whilst maintaining growth and quality of life. One possible way of doing this is to extend the life of the products that we consume.

The Micro Commercial Components Corp (MCC) life cycle study reports that fabrication of semiconductor circuits on one 150-mm wafer requires 285 kWh of electricity, which corresponds to 1.6 kWh per square centimetre. In addition to electricity, heavy oil, gas, LPG and kerosene are other fossil fuels required in manufacturing of semiconductor.

Now when India is rolling out 250 million smart meters in the electricity circuit therefore we are injecting other set of semiconductor into the system. Moreover, it’s not only meters, smart metering brings set of components like communication infrastructure and also back end servers which are again by-products of semiconductors. 

For ease of calculation consider only one circuit of 150mm wafer per smart meter with 285kWh consumption; than 71.250 GWh (285x 250 x 10kWh) of electricity would be required by 250 million such pieces. Energy cost to produce semiconductors, plastic, dyes etc. yet to be calculated.

Not only on environment, even better quality product has positive impact on the economy as a whole. An empirical analysis done at National Institute for Environmental Studies of Japan, focusing on car lifetime extension, reveals that the consumption shifts scenario, representing the case in which household consumption patterns shift from the waste-intensive car to waste extensive services due to a +1.0 year car lifetime extension, contributed to a GDP growth that amounted to approximately +2 billion yen, and consequently compensated for the economic loss from a decline in car production.

The transition from the manufacturing products-intensive society to the service-intensive society caused by the +1.0 year car average lifetime extension, led to a 200 thousand ton-decrease in the waste landfill including the car shredder residuals during the five years of the study period, 1990–1995.

Therefore, to save our environment and also public exchequer from this kind of often repeated expenditure, it is important that we shall enforce product lifetime warranty i.e. at least for 10 years in all government procurement. 

This will not only enforce quality and reliability in all the products but money saved from repeated expenses can be spent on decarbonisation targets for the nation and contribution to entire global issue of climate change. 

References –

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5593533_The_17_Kilogram_Microchip_Energy_and_Material_Use_in_the_Production_of_Semiconductor_Devices
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/223880504_The_environmental_and_economic_consequences_of_product_lifetime_extension_Empirical_analysis_for_automobile_use

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