Till 2050, rising mercury in India to drive global air conditioner demand

This may well be music to the ears of air conditioner manufacturers and a cause of concern for environmentalists. Owing to the rising heat in the region, India and China are expected to contribute around half of the total increase in the household ownership of air conditioners worldwide, with over two billion residential ACs installed in China and India by 2050.

According to a report released by the International Energy Agency today, India’s cooling-related energy demand is set to see a 15-fold rise from just 90 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2016 to 1,350 TWh in 2050. The report also states that the share of space cooling in peak electricity load worldwide is projected to rise sharply in many countries, with the biggest increase expected to be in India. The increase is most pronounced in India, where the share jumps from just 10 per cent to 45 per cent. Raising alarm bells, IEA said that India will account for 30 per cent of global emissions from space cooling in 2050, compared with just 8 per cent in 2016.

Sales of room air conditioners in India had zoomed from a mere 2 million units in 2006 to around 30 million units in 2017. However, increased use of air conditioners may be harmful to the climate due to the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) from power generation and the release of refrigerants like hydroflurocarbons (HFCs).

India should provide incentives for manufacturers to make more efficient air conditioners and can even subsidise it for consumers, Fatih Birol, executive director of IEA told Business Standard. “The 2,500 gigawatt (GW )of global additional capacity is bigger than the total generating capacity of the United States, Europe and India combined today. India sees the biggest increase, given its large population and hot climate,” Birol added.

Globally, the total capacity needed to meet space-cooling demand, taking account of the variability of renewables-based generating capacity, is projected to jump 395 per cent from 850 GW in 2016 to 3,350 GW in 2050, the report said. Interestingly, Solar photovoltaic (PV) accounts for more than 835 GW, or one-third, of the generating capacity additions needed globally to meet the growth in cooling demand. “India is the biggest contributor, accounting for almost 40 per cent of the global solar PV capacity increase in the cooling space. India also drives nearly 60 per cent of the 300 GW increase in global coal capacity for cooling between 2016 and 2050,” it said.

However, the report states that an efficient cooling scenario can reduce the need to build new generation capacity to meet peak demand. “Worldwide, the need for an additional capacity of up to 2050 just to meet the demand from ACs is 1 300 gigawatts (GW) lower in the Efficient Cooling Scenario, the equivalent of all the coal-fired power generation capacity in China and India today,” it said.

It further added that because of lower electricity capacity due to efficiency, the investment need may be reduced over the period 2017-50, with India contributing $295 billion of a total of $1.2 bn, or over a quarter of the global investment savings.

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