A Smart, Sustainable & Affordable Cooling Future for India

Innovative cool roofs in India
Credit: NRDC

Co-authored with Karan Chouksey

With 2016 as yet another record breaking year for global temperatures, communities across India are grappling with rising temperatures and the deadly threats from extreme temperatures. Rising temperatures are creating a surge in cooling demand that poses a tremendous challenge to meet peak electricity demand, continue economic growth and protect human health during extreme heat events. Leading cities in India are tackling the increasing demand for cooling with three innovative tools: cool roofs, green air-conditioners and energy-efficient buildings. 

Cool-roofs: Affordable Cooling Option

Communities living in slums and low income housing are extremely vulnerable to rising temperatures because of many factors, including access to fans, ice and health care. NRDC and its partners, the Indian Institute of Public Health – Gandhinagar (IIPH-G) and the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), are piloting affordable cooling options in a low-income housing community in Hyderabad.

The cool roof pilot project aims to demonstrate cost-effective solutions to increase thermal comfort and also provide health benefits. Another objective is to develop sustainable financing solutions in partnership with city officials and other key stakeholders to scale these solutions.

Green Air Conditioners (ACs)

In addition to cool roofs, air conditioning use is expected to rise dramatically in India. The market for air conditioning is projected to grow from the current six percent as income levels rise. As part of our work on phasing down hydrofluorocarbons in India and advancing energy efficiency, NRDC is working with partners, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD) on a pilot program for climate-friendly and energy efficient room air conditioners in India.

The green air conditioning pilot aims to increase the market share for efficient air conditioners that have low global warming potential, working with key leaders as well as engaging companies with larger market shares.  

Building Energy Efficiency

As Indian cities continue to rapidly urbanize and develop, efficient buildings are critical to conserving energy. NRDC and ASCI are continuing to partner with the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation to integrate the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) online compliance into Hyderabad’s online building approval system—Development Permission Management System. To streamline this compliance system, the Hyderabad city government has shared resources such as draft guidelines for a simplified version of the Telangana State Energy Conservation and Building Code (TSECBC) and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), with building developers and other stakeholders.

The strategy for code compliance was designed and built with extensive input from stakeholders, including real estate developers and architects from Hyderabad and elsewhere. In February this year, NRDC and partners will be leading a session on advancing green air-conditioning at the annual air conditioning conference, ACREX India 2017.

Energy Efficient Building in Hyderabad
Energy Efficient Building in Hyderabad
Credit: NRDC

To advance innovative solutions to rising temperatures (cool roofs, green air conditioners, and energy efficient buildings, NRDC is working with a coalition led by the Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE). The coalition aims to bring together leading civil society groups, academia and technical and policy experts to advance towards sustainable space cooling. In particular the coalition plans to pool research and knowledge; engage in stakeholder consultations, including consumers, builders, appliance manufacturers, and policy makers; conduct outreach for effective policy recommendation; and create public awareness.

Increasing cooling demand is a growing challenge in many cities across India. The building sector is a clear opportunity to address this with cost-efficient, smart and affordable solutions. Cool-roof programs work to decrease the demand for cooling while providing comfort. Similarly, green ACs and building energy efficiency are smart solutions for cities that provide a key opportunity to reduce demand and generate energy savings that translate directly to financial savings. These actions together will build a smart, sustainable and affordable cooling future for cities in India.

Karan Chouksey works with NRDC’s India program as a consultant based in New Delhi.