Immense potential for greener HFC alternatives in India
A new analysis by non-profit Centre for Science and Environment has found a high potential for replacing hydrofluorocarbons with greener alternatives in industrial setups.
Hydrofluorocarbons are gases with high global warming potential (GWP). On the other hand, proposed natural alternatives to HFCs are low GWP, non-patented and energy efficient. A transition to these alternatives would minimise costs and maximise energy and emissions savings, the report finds.
Some of the commonly used alternatives to HFCs in different sectors are propane (R290), isobutane (R600a), ammonia (R717) and carbon dioxide (R744). These refrigerants offer lower cost, have low GWP and high energy efficiency compared to their fluorinated counterparts.
The analysis was published in a report “Prioritising natural refrigerants in India” conducted by CSE with the support of cBalance Solutions Pvt Ltd. The study was carried out to ascertain the current state of refrigerant use in the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (RAC) sector in India and the role natural refrigerants can play.
The present scenario of refrigerants uses in India
The current stock of RAC equipment in India is estimated to be 125 million tonnes refrigeration (TR is a unit of power). Stationary air-conditioning (45 percent), mobile air-conditioning (16.5 percent), and domestic refrigeration (15.5 percent) together account for almost 80 percent of India’s installed cooling capacity.
The report estimates yearly RAC equipment sale in India to be around 18.2 million TR. Sales in 2015 exhibit a similar pattern to the existing stock, with stationary air conditioning (44 percent), mobile air-conditioning (20 percent), and domestic refrigeration (13 percent) accounting for almost 80 percent of India’s added annual cooling capacity in 2015.
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and HFCs account for 90 percent of the total sales in RAC sector in India, remaining 10 percent is held by natural refrigerants. In 2015, 44.26 percent of RAC sales were from HCFCs and 47.29 percent from HFCs.
The use of HCFCs has gone down in most sectors. Today, HCFCs is used mostly in residential air conditioning (60 percent) and commercial refrigeration (25 percent). The reduction in HCFC use has been accompanied by an increase in the use of HFCs. The highest HFC use is in the mobile air conditioning sector (40 percent), followed by domestic (19 percent) and commercial (18 percent) refrigeration.
India’s total installed cooling capacity is slated to rise five times to 610 million TR by 2030. The most significant increase in annual sales is projected for the domestic air-conditioning sector—six-fold increase over the next 15 years.
Other than the mobile air conditioning and transport refrigeration sectors, the rest can move to natural refrigerants with current technologies. About 77 percent of the RAC sector can switch to natural alternatives.
India and other Article 5 countries have an opportunity to phase-down a large portion of their HFC demand with the use of low-GWP, non-patented, natural refrigerants. Reaching this potential, however, will require enabling regulations, updated safety standards and market incentives for first movers.
Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has set up a sub-committee to consider amendments to ISO 5149—the most prominent international standard for the use of flammable standards—to make it less restrictive for the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants, especially in domestic air-conditioning.
Use of natural refrigerants offers energy efficiency in almost all applications under the RAC sector. The use of natural refrigerants will allow us to set more ambitious energy efficiency targets for ensuring energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A study by CSE estimates that a doubling of energy efficiency in the domestic air-conditioning sector alone will lead to a reduction of 100 million tons of CO2 equivalent annually in India by 2030.
In the ongoing negotiations, countries have agreed to have flexibility in <g data-gr-id="103">implementation</g> of the approved phase down the schedule. Parties can use this flexibility to prioritise natural refrigerants through funding from the multilateral fund. Article 5 countries can avoid an expensive transition with the use of patented fluorinated refrigerants.
(The views expressed are strictly those of Down to Earth.)