Proposal to shift India’s time-zone by half an hour for substantial energy savings

Last updated on August 16, 2020

To whomsoever it may concern,

I am writing this letter in lieu of Costa Rica’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2021 ahead of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, to suggest a way in which India too could substantially reduce its carbon emissions and save electricity, and thus pave the way for carbon neutrality.

I would like to suggest shifting India’s time-zone by half an hour, from GMT+5:30 to GMT+6:00, which would potentially save more than 2 billion kWh annually, and thus implement Year-Round Daylight Savings Time (YRDST), which would have huge energy and non-energy benefits as well.

In 2010, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) set up a Steering Committee, which assigned the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) to study various options of energy savings based on time-zone considerations as well as Daylight Savings Time (DST). Their conclusion, published in a September 2011 report by Dr Sen Gupta and Dr Dilip Ahuja was that advancing India’s clock permanently by half an hour is the most efficient way (easiest to implement, no negative social consequences) to reduce the nation’s power consumption.

Their research further elucidates upon the extent of energy savings that can be achieved throughout India. They extrapolate an estimate of 2.72 billion units per annum on national savings (according to state-level data compared to 2.1 billion units derived in their previous estimate using regional data). While this amounts to a 0.4 % savings on daily consumption (using 2009 data) and may not appear significant, the real impact is on the peak load energy consumption of the early evening period which is estimated to reduce by as much as 16%. The proposal thus targets precisely the evening peak demand that India’s power sector struggles to fulfil. This amounts to over 1.7 million tons of CO2 offset by the energy savings.

At Rs 3.50 per kWh, this amounts to savings about of about Rs 1,000 crores per annum and this number will keep on increasing with enhanced use of lights, the overall economic growth and the increasing cost of energy.

Most Indians are not bothered by our time zone, apart from the Northeast where the sun rises around 4a.m. in the summer and sets well before 4p.m. in the winter, creating a two-hour time lag from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh. This would normally require a separate time zone for the Northeast, a practice common in several other countries such as Canada and the USA. But the downside of such a practice, given India’s massive population, would be chaos at the borders between two time zones; besides, the railways are not yet automated enough to handle time shifts mid-journey and this could induce major accidents due to human error. Thus, the advancing of IST by half an hour, while making no real difference to Gujarat, would benefit the whole nation, with an optimal impact in the Northeast. As their work hours become more synchronised with the sun, their lighting costs would reduce and they would no more have to work in the dark.

Many western nations follow Daylight Saving Time (DST), a practice wherein the clocks are advanced in the summer and retracted in the winter, enabling efficient usage of daylight and reduction in power consumption. However, yet again, with a diverse and large society in India, the practice of DST would demand tremendous organisation and coordination and may not assure energy saving; rather, it would increase hazards in transport/road mishaps. Thus using time zones or DST to increase daylight usage and hence energy efficiency was ruled out as the social costs could be greater than actual savings. However, shifting India’s time zone permanently has none of these overheads and instead entails the benefits of both DST and separate time zones without its hassles.

Lastly, the increase in available daylight resulting from advancing IST, can only positively affect the stunted economic growth and development of the east Indian States of West Bengal, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and the seven north-eastern states. Additionally, as the region begins to develop further and consume proportionately more electricity, the absolute power savings that would result would be substantial, and essential to its growth.

Thus, with all these considerations and no negative social, political, or economic impacts, the aforementioned proposal of advancing the IST from GMT +5.30 to GMT + 6.00 permanently is suggested. What makes the proposal even more enticing is the fact that it costs practically nothing to implement. A short media campaign is all that is needed before it is put in place once and for all.

Some of the non-energy benefits of following YRDST include reduction in traffic and pedestrian accidents, reduction in crime, mainstreaming the north-east, mainstreaming the country in a globalizing world, benefit to the retailers, sporting events, reduction in postponed flights due to winter morning fog, increase in shopping and productivity and so on.

As per the research done by Sen Gupta and Ahuja, shifting India’s time-zone by 1 hour to GMT+6:30 would actually save over 4 billion kWh, however its consequences and logistics are yet to be researched upon.

As part of the youth of this nation, I understand how critical it is to focus on issues related to climate change, which are exacerbated by carbon emissions, of which the electricity sector plays a huge role. Implementing the above proposal would have a huge impact on mitigating carbon emissions and saving electricity in a power-starved nation.

I would kindly request you to consider this proposal, as it would have wide ramifications on our energy security and have multiple positive spill-over effects (not related to energy).

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

Siddhant Sinha,

Founder, SUN Foundation