India’s Ambitious Plan to Cool a Growing Population

India is moving forward with a comprehensive plan to meet the country’s skyrocketing cooling demand with the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) released today in New Delhi by India's Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan.
India's Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, releases the India Cooling Action Plan
Credit: NRDC

With people around the world living through the fourth hottest year on record in 2018, the need for cooling solutions is more urgent than ever. India’s cooling demand is projected to grow by 8 times in the next 20 years. India is moving forward with a comprehensive plan to meet the country’s skyrocketing cooling demand with the India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) released today in New Delhi by India's Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan.

Led by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC), the ICAP is a comprehensive document aimed to meet the country’s rapidly growing cooling needs while addressing climate action needs.

The objective to the ICAP is far-reaching and includes considerations ranging from thermal comfort, energy efficiency through building design, and standards and labeling for appliances, while also considering Make in India, energy poverty, energy access challenges and the impact of emissions from increased cooling. Several exciting new programs are already supporting the ICAP goals. For example, the recently announced Cooling Innovation Platform is designed to kickstart domestic innovation cooling technologies and the new super-efficient air conditioner program that is expected to include a refrigerant standard for the first time. City-wide cool roof programs and state-wide energy-smart building standards also support the ICAP.

Dr. Anil Jain, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, while referring to the ICAP as a first of its kind document said, “The Ministry has taken a bold step which links the problem of ozone depleting substances to climate change, while also providing cooling comfort to all, through the ICAP.” He also highlighted that ICAP addresses cooling while also promoting energy efficiency, Make in India, balanced growth of better refrigerant gases and equipment manufacturing, also including appliances such as fans and coolers.

Growing Demand for Cooling

As living standards rise for tens of millions of Indian people, the enormous expansion in room and vehicle air conditioning could strain the country’s electric grid, require increased fuel import, and magnify the impacts of global warming as a consequence of carbon dioxide and refrigerant greenhouse gas emissions. Choices made in the next few years will shape whether Indian consumers, companies and government authorities can turn the challenges of the room and vehicle air conditioning expansion into business advantage and national opportunity while reducing climate change, improving air quality, and making air conditioning more efficient and less costly to operate.

The room AC stock in India has skyrocketed from 2 million units in 2006 to approximately 30 million units in 2017, which is still less than 10% market penetration. Room ACs account for the highest area of growth, mostly in apartments and homes. The ICAP finds that room air conditioners will remain pervasive well into 2038 and will consume nearly as much energy as the all commercial AC systems combined, including cooling chillers and HVAC systems.  

Montreal Protocol

In addition to the increased demand for cooling, another key driver for the ICAP is the Montreal Protocol and the landmark Kigali Amendment to phase down potent heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and integrate energy efficiency into air conditioning. HFCs—used mostly in air conditioning and refrigeration, for making insulating foams, and in some aerosol and other products—have hundreds to thousands of times the heat-trapping power (global warming potential, or GWP) of carbon dioxide. Though accounting for only 1-2% of total warming now, HFCs are the fastest growing climate pollutants because of the skyrocketing demand for air conditioning and refrigeration in developing markets such as India. Rwanda just launched its National Cooling Strategy earlier this year and 20 other countries are expected to follow under the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP). Cooling is a major challenge as 120 countries gathered last month to discuss climate-friendly AC and refrigerator standards

Improving ACs—both in terms of the refrigerants used and energy efficiencies—offers major benefits. Managing refrigerants in ACs is the single greatest opportunity to stave off the worst effects of climate change, according to a 2017 study by Paul Hawken. Leading AC manufacturers recognize this opportunity and are aggressively working to increase market share for AC models that are both more energy efficient and that use better refrigerants. The best room ACs have already reached ISEER 6.2 in the Indian market, sold by companies such as Daikin, Godrej, and Hitachi.

ICAP Goals

The cooling action plan sets forth 5 main ambitious goals:

  1. Recognition of “cooling and related areas” as a thrust area of research under the national science and technology program to support development of technological solutions and encourage innovation challenges.
  2. Reduction of cooling demand across sectors by 20% to 25% by year 2037-38
  3. Reduction of refrigerant demand by 25% to 30% by year 2037-38
  4. Reduction of cooling energy requirements by 25% to 40% by year 2037-38
  5. Training and certification of 100,000 servicing sector technicians by year 2022-23, synergizing with Skill India Mission

The MOEFCC’s Ozone Cell—tasked with phasing down substances depleting the ozone layer and causing adverse climate impacts—constituted a steering committee comprising government, industry and civil society stakeholders. They key government partners include the Bureau of Energy Efficiency and Energy Efficiency Services Limited given the focus on integrating energy efficiency. The industry stakeholders include the Room Air Conditioning Association (RAMA), AC companies, refrigerant manufactures, and key business leaders. The civil society groups include The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE), the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), among others.

Minister Harsh Vardhan congratulated all the government and non-government stakeholders involved in the enormous exercise of drafting the plan and mentioned the need for aggressive outreach of the plan for most prudent use of the plan as a guiding document for managing India’s growing cooling demand.

In some ways, the country has already started implementing the India Cooling Action Plan focused on improved room ACs during the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) in New Delhi in February. TERI, NRDC and partners launched the Cooling Innovation Platform designed to drive domestic innovation on refrigerants and cooling technologies. Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) just announced a new super-efficient ACs program that aims to increase efficiency by 40% at 30% lower cost – the new program also includes a refrigerant standard. The leading cities of Ahmedabad and Hyderabad are developing city-wide cool roof programs and the leading states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are implementing energy-saving building programs that increase thermal comfort.

With a comprehensive approach, the India Cooling Action Plan is leading on developing innovative cooling strategies that save energy, improve resilience against extreme heat, and curb climate change.

Credit: Source: India Cooling Action Plan (MOEFCC)
Credit: Source: India Cooling Action Plan (MOEFCC)