A report by TERI, NRDC, CEEW and IGSD talks about how clean, smarter technologies could cut climate change impact of India’s rising air conditioning use and save energy.
As India rapidly expands its automobile and room air conditioning usage, which could strain the country’s electricity grid and substantially add to global warming emissions, it has a unique opportunity to “leapfrog” out dated refrigerant technology and build domestic and export industries based on more climate friendly alternatives, according to a new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in consultation with the Confederation of Indian Industry.
“India has an opportunity to skip ahead to the next generation of climate-friendlier refrigerants that will cool Indian buildings and automobiles with less pollution,” said Anjali Jaiswal, director of NRDC’s India Initiative. “Indian industry is ready to move ahead and adopt environment friendlier alternatives that would bring multiple benefits – from reducing dangerous climate change, improving air quality to saving energy, all the while making air conditioning more efficient and less costly to operate.”
The report, Cooling India with Less Warming: The Business Case for Phasing Down HFCs in Room and Vehicle Air Conditioners, analyzes the market opportunities for replacing the potent heat-trapping gases called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in automobile and room air conditioning with climate-friendlier refrigerants and more energy efficient equipment designs. HFC production and consumption are projected to grow significantly in India as companies phase-out ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) under the Montreal Protocol treaty and consider replacing them with ozone-friendly but polluting HFCs.
“Taking steps to transition towards refrigerants which would reduce the impact on climate change is a win-win for India. Saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are in the interest of Indian citizens and companies and for all of us citizens of planet earth,” said Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, director general of TERI. “Industry leaders in particular in this country need to be informed about technological alternatives by which refrigerants which have much lower potential for climate change than those being used currently can be used. Industry has to be a part of the solution in adoption and promotion of technologies that are climate friendly.”
The report is being issued to coincide with the 33rd Open Ended Working Group Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Bangkok, and the visit of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Delhi for the U.S.-Indian Strategic Dialogue, both taking place this week.
“Many leading Indian companies are already producing innovative air conditioners that lead to less climate change and more energy efficiency – and many more are poised to join their ranks,” said Dr. Arunabha Ghosh, chief executive officer of CEEW. “By expanding production of these better products for the national market, India could not only prevent a surge of new climate change pollution, it would also avoid the added expense of a double transition from one technology to another over time.”
Indian industry is poised for this transition. Two room air conditioner companies – Godrej Appliances and Daikin – already manufacture and market ACs in India with climate friendly refrigerants. Increasing affluence and changing consumer choices have contributed to a rapid increase in demand for air conditioners. As a result, the total number of air conditioner units in use in India may reach 200 million by 2030 – more than 40 times the current installed base. The power demand on the electricity grid by room air conditioning alone in India will also increase to 50 Terawatt hours per year by 2030 – more than a 10 times increase from the current amount.
“Development of green appliances is part of Godrej & Boyce’s corporate mission of sustainability through innovative environment friendly products and processes that not just protects our planet but also creates higher value for all stakeholders including consumers,” said Ramesh Chembath, Associate Vice President, Godrej & Boyce Manufacturing, Appliance Division.
The automobile air conditioning market is growing equally fast. While most vehicles manufactured in India are for the domestic market, India is rapidly developing into an export hub for automobiles. As automobile manufacturers increase their share of exports, they are choosing to design vehicles to the highest international standards. Tata Motors and Maruti Suzuki have designed prototypes using an HFC replacement almost 1,400 times less potent than the current HFC refrigerant.
“A number of countries are taking steps to transition away from refrigerants that have a large impact on climate change,” said Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, director of research at IGSD. “We’ve seen time and again how Indian companies and government authorities have risen to the challenge and I’m confident that they can lead on this issue.”
The European Union has phased-out high global warming potential coolants for new cars through the “Mobile Air Conditioner Directive” and recently proposed an “F-gas Regulation” that will phase down all uses of HFCs by more than two-thirds from today’s levels. In the U.S., a number of efforts are underway for a broader phase-down of HFCs under existing law. As part of the greenhouse gas standards for cars in the U.S., carmakers are replacing HFCs with chemicals that have less than one percent of the climate impact.
India faces changes in the global market driven by legal requirements in key countries like the United States, Europe, Japan and Australia that compel climate friendlier alternatives to HFCs.
“Innovation drives business in India, as it did with leapfrogging cellular technology,” said Bhaskar Deol, NRDC’s India Representative based in Delhi. “Tapping into that innovate spirit is that way to spur more efficient technologies that reduce costs, energy and pollution.”