How to improve the energy efficiency of cold stores in India

A report commissioned by the World Bank Group presents energy efficiency measures for the design of post-harvest and cold storage warehouses in India. 

According to the FAO, India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world. [1] Unfortunately, post-harvest losses were estimated in 2017 to range between 5.8% and 18% for fruits and between 6.8% and 13% for vegetables, according to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). [2] A more efficient cold chain infrastructure could help reduce food loss as well as energy use and GHG emissions. According to the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) launched in March 2019, the government of India projects significant growth in cold chain infrastructure development. As the result, ICAP estimates that energy consumption from cold storage warehouses could reach 4.9 TWh by 2038. [2]  


A report on the energy efficiency of the cold chain in India, commissioned by the World Bank Group, was prepared by the Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE) in collaboration with India's Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). There were about 500 packhouses across the country in 2019, among which 300 were integrated packhouses with pre-cooling facilities. An integrated packhouse unit includes several stages of pre-conditioning of harvested products: packaging, precooling and transient storage in cold room prior to transport. The pre-cooling and staging cold room is the most energy intensive area in a packhouse and accounts for up to 60%-80% of total energy consumption. 


The report provides recommendations for energy efficiency based on the assessment of about 25 packhouses nationwide. For instance, practical measures such as installing fast roll-up doors to reduce hot air and moisture infiltration, can potentially save 6-8% in energy consumed for cooling. The energy saving potential of evaporative cooling over a traditional air-conditioned space was evaluated at 40-50%. Opting for energy efficient equipment such as semi-hermetic reciprocating or scroll compressors in a rack system can potentially reduce energy consumption by 15-20% over the one-to-one system. 


The complete report is available for download on the AEEE website.   


The IIR is currently coordinating a working group of global experts in charge of producing a good best practice guide on the Design and Operation of Walk-in Cold Rooms for agriculture in Hot Climates, commissioned by the World Bank. The future guide will update the IIR Manual of Refrigerated Storage in the Warmer Developing Countries (first published 1990), which is available on FRIDOC   




[1] FAO. India at a glance.  

[2] Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE). Cold Chain Energy Efficiency in India. 

[3] News from India. JARN. May 25, 2022