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CSR: Reducing Dependability on ACs for Cooling


As severe summer-time heatwaves become the norm in India, the use of air-conditioners (ACs) and resultant energy consumption have started hitting the roof. If every household in India ran an AC for seven months a year, the total electricity required would be 120 per cent higher than the total electricity produced in the country during the 2017-18.

In this scenario, there is no way India can meet its goals on energy security and climate change mitigation unless the country takes urgent steps towards designing buildings that ensure thermal comfort and reduce the use of ACs and other mechanical cooling devices.

A study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment has analysed the trends – over eight years – in electricity consumption in Delhi. The report, titled A Midsummer Nightmare: Decoding the link between comfort, space cooling and energy consumption in a climate-stressed world, shows that the power demand barely changes when the heat index is within 25-32°C. However, it spirals out of control the moment this range is breached.

India is already facing an energy crisis where urban penetration of air conditioning is 7-9 per cent, and domestic demand for electricity is 24.32 per cent of the total electricity consumption in 2016-17, as per the India Energy Statistics Report 2018.

Moving towards a ‘thermal comfort for all’ approach and making a thermal comfort standard as the central focus of building regulations and practice, as the India Cooling Action Plan has asked for, will require a diverse and broad-based approach. While steps are needed to frame and operationalise thermal comfort standards for buildings, this approach has to go much beyond buildings to include heat mitigation plans for cities on the whole.

At the same time, while design and technology will be combined to reduce the thermal load on buildings and operational hours of active cooling, steps must also be taken for demand-side management. Every part of this will have to be done perfectly in order to create an environmentally sustainable and socially equitable solution.

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The CSR Journal Team