Making air conditioners more sustainable in India – Times of India

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India has emphasised accelerating its actions toward sustainability in the last few years and is promoting the adoption of environment-friendly practices in every sector, including the air-conditioning sector. The country has ambitious environmental goals such as net-zero by 2070 and global commitments to accomplish. This necessitates taking sustainable actions for the country and India Inc. It’s quintessential for businesses to recognize the criticality of sustainability and integrate associated factors into their business strategies.
For the Indian air-conditioning sector, the integration of sustainability factors into business plans assumes increased importance today as energy consumption is rising by the day in India. ACs, which were considered a luxury have turned into an essential appliance due to the continuously rising temperature in India. This situation requires the sector’s attention to balance out the cooling needs and possible emissions while augmenting the shift toward efficient, smart and sustainable air-conditioning solutions.
Through the visionary India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP), the government aims to address the cooling requirement across sectors sustainably while protecting the ozone layer. The multiple objectives of the plan including assessment of cooling requirements, mapping technology, skilling Refrigeration and Air-conditioning (RAC) service technicians, and a robust R&D ecosystem for indigenous development of alternative technologies set the path for the much-needed shift to sustainable AC solutions. The sector must strive to become environment-friendly by implementing novel technologies. Over and above the environmental benefits, it will help the sector attract an investment of a whopping $1.6 trillion by 2040, according to the World Bank.
The inevitability of energy-efficient air conditioning systems
The second most populous country in the world, India needs to not only produce an enormous amount of energy every year but also implement cutting-edge technologies to save as much power as possible to fulfil the requirements of every citizen. Today, it is the third-largest country in the world in terms of energy consumption, and is expected to witness a rapid growth in energy demand due to various reasons including the increase in new appliances such as ACs. In this scenario, finding and implementing the best alternative solution can assist in mitigating the threat of energy shortage today and tomorrow.
At the same time, curbing the annual greenhouse emission is extremely essential for India. In this endeavour, sustainable ACs can contribute immensely. According to a report by the World Bank, the country will see eight times rise in the demand for cooling equipment from the current levels by 2037, a new air-conditioner every 15 seconds.
By promoting a tech transformation in the AC segment and endorsing the adoption of state-of-the-art technology, we can curb the annual greenhouse emission to some extent. This will be the most effective way to achieve sustainability in the sector, reduce energy consumption, facilitate energy security and improve the environment.
Scope for technological advancement
Vapour compression is the main component of AC that is primarily responsible for destroying the environment. It consumes a massive amount of energy and may soon exceed the grid’s ability to supply power. Additionally, hydrofluorocarbons, which are ozone-depleting agents, used in air-conditioners also contribute to the global temperature rise.
The solution to these concerns lies in improving the internal performance of appliances and using fewer environmentally harmful refrigerants. The robust utilisation of heat pumps is another area that demands increased focus from the manufacturers. Additionally, creating innovative materials that effectively absorb moisture from the air will be a good strategy to increase the effectiveness of air conditioners.
Most importantly, the sector needs to think about the transition to solar-powered air-conditioning systems, which has become the need of the hour to harness the vast solar energy potential of the country and reduce emissions. These systems are typically cost-effective for all kinds of applications such as in residential and commercial establishments.
Challenges and solutions to promote sustainable AC
Equal emphasis on the supply and demand side is important. India needs to boost the production of sustainable systems as well as promote the adoption of such equipment.
Through green procurement program, the government can encourage large-scale purchases of energy-efficient air conditioners that use natural refrigerants. By offering more incentives to manufacturers of natural refrigerant-based air conditioners under the PLI scheme, the government can promote the production of sustainable cooling systems.
On the demand side, affordability is a major hindrance in the path of the penetration of sustainable systems. The high cost of these products discourages consumer sentiment and they ultimately show a preference for traditional systems. To stimulate customer sentiment, the government can ponder over incentives in line with the schemes like Bachat Lamp Yojana. Under the scheme, efficient lights are provided at the same price as incandescent lights. Such a move for sustainable ACs can help achieve the target of swift adoption.
Most importantly, India needs to bring a drastic change in consumer behaviour by spreading awareness regarding environmental degradation and the necessity to embrace modern air-conditioning solutions. Consumers also need to have exact knowledge about efficiency standards and star ratings so that they can identify the best products.
The AC manufacturing segment can play an instrumental role in facilitating the country’s efforts to achieve environmental and sustainable goals by reducing energy consumption and greenhouse emissions. The stakeholders must take concrete measures, adopt cutting-edge technologies and innovative strategies to create a sustainable future while enhancing the comfort AC offers.
Ajay Singhania, MD & CEO, EPACK Durable Private Limited (EDPL)

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