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Staying cool

It’s time for energy-efficient temperature limits for air-conditioning units in public facilities

March 09, 2017 12:24 am | Updated November 17, 2021 06:01 am IST

India has launched the second phase of the programme to eliminate the use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) as part of its commitment under the Montreal Protocol, which requires the complete removal of chemicals that result in ozone depletion and aid global warming. These are used mainly in the air-conditioning, refrigeration, polyurethane foam manufacturing and cold chain sectors, and must be replaced with better alternatives. All these sectors are in high growth mode as emerging economies witness greater urbanisation and higher agricultural productivity. The data for refrigerant consumption during 2015 compiled by the European Union show that in the developing world, split air-conditioning units, car ACs and commercial refrigeration record the highest use of these chemicals. It is imperative the Central government ensures that its efforts to upgrade industries using the $44.1 million in funding available under the Protocol are scaled up to meet the need fully. Modernising the technology used by 400 industrial units, many of them small and medium enterprises, by 2023 has to be complemented by policy changes that encourage adoption by consumers. Systemic change requires the active participation of State governments, which can enact and enforce new building codes and purchase regulations that are envisaged in the current phase. Newer refrigerants with lower global warming potential are available to industry, and there are some early adopters, while research on chemicals with greater energy reduction and very low contribution to global warming has to continue. Credentialed training of service technicians in the newer technologies is welcome as it will bring about change of refrigerants used in the repair and replacement market and create additional employment. It is important to make consumers aware of green options among products in terms of the underlying technologies, and incentivise adoption through tax structures.

 

The Environment Ministry’s proposal to prescribe energy-efficient temperature limits for air-conditioning units in public facilities is promising. A lot of energy is wasted because of poor infrastructure and lack of understanding of efficiency metrics. Equally, the Centre should conduct audit of public buildings to determine whether they are suitably designed, as climate control relies as much on passive influences such as insulation, green roofing and the nature of materials used in construction. It is possible, for instance, to adopt the Paris idea and ask all major buildings to incorporate solar panel roofing or suitable green cover. The continued success of the Montreal Protocol in its goal to eliminate HCFCs by 2030 will depend on reducing the acquisition costs of cleaner technologies. The greater affordability of solar photovoltaic power and its rapid adoption at various scales is a clear pointer. More people will have access to air-conditioning and refrigeration in coming years, and the focus of government policy must be to make them energy-efficient and eco-friendly.

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