India: air conditioning at the heart of transition from HFCs
The Indian Government recently released its “India Cooling Action Plan” (ICAP), which addresses cooling requirements across sectors and lists out actions which can help reduce refrigerant demand, cooling demand and related energy consumption in a 20-year perspective (see IIR news 25156).
In parallel to ICAP release, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) published in March 2019 the report “Acting on Many Fronts: Incentives and Regulations to Phase-down HFCs in India”. The study, conducted in collaboration with the Norwegian Environment Agency, intends to inform policymakers on the expected challenges in phasing down HFCs and the transition away from high-GWP HFCs.
The CEEW report highlights that the sectors that will lie at the heart of this refrigerant transition – residential air conditioning (RAC), mobile air conditioning (MAC), commercial air conditioning (CAC), and commercial refrigeration (CR) – are poised for significant growth that will add to India’s GDP and job creation potential. Moreover, these sectors will also be central to India’s development imperatives, including providing thermal comfort against heat stress to ensure well-being and productivity, minimising food losses through cold chain development, and enhancing energy savings as a result of efficient appliances and equipment. As of 2016, India’s air conditioning market (including residential, mobile, and commercial air conditioning applications) was estimated at USD 3 billion. Room air conditioners alone constitute 56% of this, despite a current penetration rate of 7 to 9%. By 2038, India’s cooling needs – the demand for refrigeration and air conditioning in residential, mobile, and commercial settings – are projected to increase approximately 8-fold.
Based on IEA estimates, the energy required for space cooling (comprised of air conditioning applications for residential and commercial buildings), as a share of peak electricity load, will increase from its current 10% to 45% by 2050. According to recent government estimates for India, the total primary energy supply (TPES) for cooling is expected to grow to 4.5 times its current value by 2038.
The refrigerant allocation for this projected demand is proportionately large, and will require a corresponding increase in the number of air conditioning service technicians as well. The current number of jobs in the air-conditioning service sector is estimated to be 200,000, and is expected to increase to 2,000,000 by 2030.
In terms of HFC emissions, an India-specific modelling study showed that by 2050, of the 5.4% attributed to HFCs in India’s total greenhouse gas emissions, 5% would be from the RAC, MAC, CAC, and CR sectors alone. These four sectors will, therefore, be significant in India’s HFC phase-down strategy and implementation.
However, the report stresses the economic and health importance of air conditioning for India. By 2030, India is expected to experience a productivity loss equivalent to 30.8 million full-time jobs as a direct consequence of heat stress. India is among the countries most vulnerable to losses due to climate change. A study on 12 urban areas across various countries, including India, found a 3.94% rise in mortality risk for every degree of temperature increase above 29°C.
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