With heat waves sweeping across Indian cities, the need for cooling solutions is more urgent than ever. India’s cooling demand is projected to grow by eight times in the next 20 years. Adding to this pressure, the demand for air-conditioners (ACs) is increasing significantly. From 30 million units in 2017, the stock of ACs is projected to rise rapidly to about 240 million units by 2030 and 1,100 million units by 2050. This will lead to a significant increase in the energy demand for cooling, stress on the electricity grid and higher emissions, in addition to the release of HFCs, which are high Global Warming Potential (GWP) gases.
From 30 million units in 2017, the stock of ACs is projected to rise rapidly to about 240 million units by 2030 and 1,100 million units by 2050—this will lead to higher emissions and the release of more HFCs.
Foreseeing the complex energy trends and challenges that India would have to confront, Shakti was one of the first to identify early action opportunities for cooling efficiency and phasing down HFCs. These are areas that can play a profound role in shaping a cleaner future for India.
For over five years now, Shakti has collaborated with CSO partners, Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE), Council on Energy Environment and Water (CEEW), The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and CEPT University, to build a fact base on these opportunities through policy research and consensus building.
Because of these efforts, there is now a solid analytical foundation on areas like space cooling, thermal comfort in buildings, the implications of an HFC phase down and alternative refrigerants, which did not exist before. We also helped to convene meaningful stakeholder dialogue and outreach that helped define better cooling efficiency strategies for India. In March 2019, India became one of the first countries in the world to launch a national roadmap to meet its burgeoning cooling needs. Several efforts facilitated by Shakti helped to push the needle on this important development.
As India geared up for the Kigali Montreal Protocol Meeting in October 2016, the question of feasible pathways for phasing down HFCs became more pressing. The early-action efforts enabled by Shakti provided the solutions required for India to take a more informed stance on the HFC phase down. Because of the groundwork already laid, we were able to collectively informed India’s position and bridged knowledge gaps with robust analysis on ozone-friendly, climate-friendly refrigerants.
Then, in adopting the Kigali amendment with nearly 200 other countries, India sent a clear message to the world on the need to transition to ozone-friendly, climate-friendly alternatives. In the immediate year that followed Kigali, we continued to enable research initiatives, one being a first of its kind study on improving servicing and installation practices in the AC sector to make systems more safe, reliable and climate-friendly.
Years of work then came together when in March 2018, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC), prioritised the drafting of a national cooling action plan, creating six thematic working groups for this purpose: Space Cooling and Cold Chain, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology, R&D and the Production Sector, Servicing Sector, Transport Air Conditioning, and Cross-Cutting Policy Regulation.
The MOEFCC engaged with our CSO partners AEEE, CEEW and TERI to contribute to the plan. AEEE, CEEW and TERI led four of the thematic working groups working on the ICAP. CSE was a member of the thematic group on Research and Development (R&D) and the Production sector. They submitted a number of critical recommendations to address cooling requirements across sectors. In addition, all thematic groups had representation from at least one coalition member, which helped to advance the research that informed the development of the plan.
Since much of the groundwork was laid, we along with our CSO partners were able to develop their recommendations in a short timeframe of five months. The outcomes of these efforts in cooling efficiency strategies were realised when the draft India Cooling Action Plan was officially launched in September 2018.
India is one of the first countries in the world to a develop a national plan to address its burgeoning cooling needs. The highlight of the plan is that it proposes ways to provide equitable access to cooling for while addressing India’s future thermal comfort and the cooling needs of its people in a sustainable manner keeping a 20-year timeframe in view. The final ICAP plan was released in March 2019. It serves as an important guiding document for managing the unprecedented rise in comfort cooling demand in the country.
We engaged with International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iFOREST) to help produce more evidence to show that greener cooling systems in India can make a massive difference to climate action. This research estimates that if India starts enhancing the energy efficiency of ACs at double the current rate (from 3% to 6% annually), and replaces medium to high-GWP refrigerants with natural refrigerants, it can reduce cooling energy demand by 40% and GHG emissions by 400 million tones per annum by 2030—this is more GHG abatement than installing 100 GW of solar PV plants. The research also provides roadmaps for India to meet its increasing air-conditioning and refrigeration demand in more sustainable ways through super-efficient appliances, natural refrigerants and not-in-kind cooling technologies.