Natural refrigerants are set to play a huge role in India’s HVAC&R industry, according to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The Indian NGO is urging international policymakers to adopt a mechanism prioritising natural refrigerants in the future global HFC phase-down.
An event organised by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on the margins of the July Montreal Protocol meeting in Vienna shed light on the current use and potential for deployment of natural refrigerants in India.
Today, stationary air-conditioning, commercial and domestic refrigeration account for about 80% of India’s heating, refrigeration and cooling equipment. CSE-commissioned research evaluating current refrigerant use reveals that in 2015, HFCs and HCFCs each covered 45% of the country’s cooling needs – with natural refrigerants accounting for the remaining 10%.
The majority of these natural refrigerants are being deployed in the Indian domestic, industrial, and commercial refrigeration sectors, with a smaller proportion serving residential and commercial air-conditioning.
CSE estimates that India’s total cooling capacity will increase fivefold by 2030 – with the residential air-conditioning sector posting the largest increase, followed by commercial refrigeration and mobile air-conditioning. The NGO predicts that even without additional measures to promote natural refrigerants, their share will increase to cover about 25% of India’s cooling needs by 2030.
Huge potential for natural refrigerants in India
Evaluating the potential of natural refrigerants in India, Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director-general, pointed out that, “77% of India’s RAC sector can be converted to naturals using currently available technology”. This shift would result in direct emissions savings of about 50 million tonnes of CO2 annually by 2030, compared to the business-as-usual scenario.
Moreover, given the energy efficiency of HFC-free equipment, additional savings of around 10 million tonnes of CO2 per year could be achieved.
Global HFC phase-down should prioritise naturals
To realise the potential of natural refrigerants, the Indian government must table enabling regulations and market incentives for first movers, as well as accelerate the revision of national and international standards currently impeding uptake of the technology. To this end, CSE has submitted an amendment proposal to the standard ISO 5149 for refrigeration systems and heat pumps in order to enable safe use of hydrocarbons. The standardisation committee has set up an expert panel to examine the proposal, with recommendations expected within three months.
At global level, CSE is urging policymakers to introduce a mechanism in the upcoming HFC phase-down amendment that prioritises natural refrigerants via enabling provisions and incentives. This could be done by facilitating the push for safety standards for natural refrigerants at international level, for example, as well as by supporting developing countries in drawing up national standards and providing technical support.
Sukumar Devotta, director of India’s National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), believes demonstration projects showcasing the viability, performance and safety of HFC-free technology in India will have a major impact on breaking down barriers and helping to roll out the technology on a wider scale.