(Mains GS 3 : Environment: Conservation, Environmental pollution and degradation)
- More frequent and intense heat waves are expected with a rise in global temperatures due to climate change.
- In the last three decades, there have been 660 heat waves across India causing 12,273 deaths.
India became largest energy user for cooling:
- India, with currently low penetration levels of air conditioners (ACs), will likely require substantial cooling services to keep citizens healthy and productive.
- The India Cooling Action Plan projects the number of room air conditioners to become about four times in the next 10 years, and about 10 times in the next 20 years, making India the world’s largest energy user for cooling.
- Cooling will likely be at the forefront of India’s adaptation to climate change.
- But if cooling needs are met with inefficient ACs, it could be the bane of India’s mitigation efforts.
- Despite its clear importance, the implications of an increase in residential cooling demand have not been carefully examined.
- Estimates of AC ownership and usage, the two factors which will determine the extent of future cooling demand, have little empirical backing.
Delhi survey results
- In a recently published paper in the Environmental Research Letters shows household cooling patterns
- The findings are based on a door-to-door household survey in areas of Delhi, with above average levels of AC penetration.
- The desired levels of cooling vary greatly even among relatively homogenous communities.
- In Delhi’s wealthy neighbourhoods, 43% of the households own an AC, 39% own coolers and 18% only have a fan.
- While most households use an AC for three to four hours a day during peak summer months, about 15% use ACs for over eight hours a day.
- It is interesting to note that the India Cooling Action Plan in its estimation of residential cooling demand, assumes that an average household uses an AC for eight hours a day
Different temperatures set point:
- People prefer different AC set-point temperatures, again indicative of varying perceptions of thermal comfort.
- Half of the households set their ACs between 24°C-26°C, and 27% prefer their AC temperature to be between 21°C-23°C.
- This wide range of preferred AC temperatures have important implications on energy demand requirements, as every 1°C increase in AC set-point temperature can lead to additional 6% energy savings.
Energy efficiency is not a priority:
- Unfortunately, energy efficiency does not feature as a priority in the purchase of cooling appliances.
- Only 7% of the households have an energy efficient (star-rated) fan, and 88% of the coolers are locally assembled.
- Most people prefer to buy a three-star AC, and less than 20% of AC-owning households bought the highest rated five-star AC.
- Large-scale adoption of efficient cooling appliances will be essential to providing the required thermal comfort in a low carbon manner.
- Low levels of energy efficiency awareness are a major bottleneck that hinders the purchase of more efficient appliances.
- Many households did not know of the Star Labelling programme, which is a government programme mandatory for refrigerators and air conditioners.
- Higher upfront cost and low market availability of more efficient air conditioners (four-star and five-star) are other reasons for buying a less efficient AC.
- The impending cooling demand transition in India offers a potential advantage.
- Because a majority of investments in cooling technologies, infrastructure, and behaviours are yet to be made, there is a unique opportunity to lock-in energy efficient consumption patterns.
- Encouraging the use of passive cooling alternatives including energy efficient building designs can help provide the desired thermal comfort with reduced dependence on energy intensive cooling technologies.
- Awareness campaigns on the benefits of energy efficiency along with subsidies and financial incentives that help with the higher upfront costs can help drive up the adoption of more efficient technologies.