India's AC requirement is set to rise steeply, shows study

Currently, just about 13% of Indian households have air-conditioning, which would increase to 69% by 2040
Last Updated : 11 November 2021, 02:20 IST

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India’s use of air-conditioning is likely to expand in the next two decades covering 69 per cent of the household, pushing the country’s electricity requirement up by three times from the house cooling sector alone, according to a new study released on Tuesday.

The world’s second-most populous country, however, is not the only one to witness such a skyrocketing in AC use as similar trends would also be seen in Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia, says the study that came out in the middle of the UN climate summit in Glasgow where the world is negotiating how to minimise the emission of earth-warming gases released by power plants.

Currently, just about 13 per cent of Indian households have air-conditioning, which would increase to 69 per cent by 2040. Indonesia too would witness a steep rise from 9 per cent to 61 per cent whereas, in the case of Brazil and Mexico, the number will rise to 85 per cent and 53 per cent respectively from the current level of 29 per cent.

Even though the hot and humid climate has increased people’s choice to go for an AC, the rise of air-conditioning is on the brink of becoming a new emergency, adding unprecedented challenges to the already difficult task of decarbonising the economy and reducing emissions.

AC adoption rates will zoom over the next 20 years, leading to more than half of households being equipped with an AC unit in these four countries. “The rise will be 85 per cent in Brazil, 61 per cent in Indonesia and 69 per cent in India. This will also lead to an increase in electricity consumption, which will triple in India and Indonesia, and almost double in Mexico and Brazil,” said the team.

Despite such a steep rise, between 64 and 100 million households in these four nations still will not be able to meet their cooling requirements, finding themselves in a situation of potential discomfort. This will be particularly pronounced in states with high urbanisation levels, hot and humid climates, or poor economic conditions.

“We show that in emerging economies the decision to purchase air-conditioning in response to warmer climatic conditions is strongly anchored to a household’s socio-economic conditions and demographic characteristics,” said the team comprising researchers from Italy and UK in a study published in Nature Communication.

In India, for example, the highest numbers of hot and humid days are observed in West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and Orissa, but these states are not associated with the most widespread use of air-conditioning.

The European study is in sync with the Union Environment Ministry's own estimates showing that the nationwide cooling requirement is projected to grow around eight times by 2037-38 as compared to 2017-18 with the building sector making the biggest contribution with an estimated 11 times growth.

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Published 09 November 2021, 17:49 IST

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