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Improving India’s Room Air Conditioners Provides Powerful Climate Protection


Tremendous power sector benefits from improved energy efficiency and climate-friendly refrigerants

7 April 2015 – Switching to refrigerants with lower global warming potential (GWP) could reduce energy consumption by India’s residential air conditioning sector by 15%, boost the country’s economy, and help India meet its energy security and climate goals.  Commercially available alternatives for room air conditioning with lower GWP and greater energy efficiency (based on Life Cycle Climate Performance (LCCP)) are described  in a new report “Reducing Stress on India’s Energy Grid: The Power Sector Benefits of Transitioning to Lower Global Warming Potential and Energy Efficient Refrigerants in Room Air Conditioners,” jointly issued by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), and the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD).

India’s air conditioning market is one of the world’s fastest growing and is expected to expand rapidly as incomes rise and temperatures increase as a result of climate warming. Research by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab calculates that the total stock of room air conditioners in India will increase by 2,800% from 2010 to 2030, and the associated electricity consumption will grow by 2,887% from 2010 to 2030. Air conditioning already represents 40% of electricity use in Mumbai and 60% in New Delhi, causing frequent power outages.

Energy efficiency can reduce outages and increase the reliability of electric power across India while improving air quality. India’s Power Minister announced in 2014 a goal of achieving uninterrupted access to energy for homes, industry and commercial buildings within five years, a very ambitious goal, especially in a country where 400 million people currently do not have electricity. “Efficient use of energy and its conservation is the least-cost option to meet the increasing energy demand,” says the Ministry of Power’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) in the report.

Currently, most room air conditioners in India use hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-22, which is scheduled for phaseout under the Montreal Protocol. Going directly to R-290 (propane), which has a GWP of less than 5, or HFC-32 (R-32) which has a GWP of 677, will provide benefits in terms of greater energy efficiency as well as reduced global warming potential. In some climate circumstances, it is estimated that the use of R-32 could reduce LCCP greenhouse gas emissions from residential air by 31% by 2050.

“Moving to low-GWP efficient alternatives in air conditioning can reduce consumer electricity costs, increase India’s energy security, expand India’s manufacturing sector, and cut the number of new power plants that will need to be built as India’s economy grows,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.

The full report is here.