Bhubaneswar, in the Indian state of Orissa, is known as the Temple City because of the large number of medieval temples that still draw in thousands of pilgrims each year. Until recently the state of Orissa had an electric energy surplus, and 60 per cent of the state's energy requirements were met by hydro-electric power.

But because of climatic fluctuations and a 35 per cent reduction in rainfall in recent years, water catchments in reservoirs and dams have been drastically reduced and some hydro power plants have been shut down. Now Orissa faces a major power crisis. As recent widespread power cuts in India have demonstrated this is not only a concern for Orissa and Bhubaneswar, but for the whole country.

In a bid to reduce its reliance on hydro-electricity, Bhubaneswar adopted a renewable energy and energy efficiency policy in 2007, and is now hailed as a model for how other cities can adopt clean, sustainable energy solutions.

Amongst other measures, solar power and other energy-reduction systems were installed at the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation Hospital. Energy efficient lighting and fans have been installed and a solar photovoltaic power pack provides a reliable source of electricity, vital in a hospital where failing machines and equipment cost lives. A solar heater provides stable hot water, saving 3000 kWh of electricity every year.

Bhubaneswar's landmark site, the elaborately carved Lord Lingaraj Temple, has been hailed as one of India's greatest examples of Hindu architecture. Built in the 10th century, it has now been brought up to date by retrofitting energy efficient lighting in the form of Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs).

It has also been made law that the city's thousands of street vendors who often trade late into the night, install CFLs in order to get a licence. Out of the 50 vending zones, 45 have incorporated energy-saving light fixtures, representing approximately 3,500 vendors. Since making the switch, the vending zones' electricity use has fallen by 82 per cent.

While Vishal Dev, the commissioner of the Bhubaneswar municipal authority, acknowledges that these changes are modest, he says: "If you look at the city as a whole there's a potential to save a huge amount of energy and to be that much more environmentally friendly."

As earthrise reporter Amanda Burrell discovered, even traditional evening wedding processions now use CFLs - a sign that the idea of energy efficient bulbs is spreading beyond the vendors and out to the people of Bhubaneswar.

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Source: Al Jazeera