Blending Energy Efficiency and Environmental Performance of Domestic appliances for Climate Change Mitigation
The global climate change debates and strategies focus on macro level issues, micro level participation is often not given enough consideration as a part of emission management strategies. In India too there is a need to focus some of the efforts to control household’s emission footprint. Households, much more than their quantitative contribution towards controlling emissions, can contribute qualitatively in terms of mobilising individuals and therefore hold key to climate change mitigation efforts. A micro and household centric approach can help boost carbon abatement efforts throughout the economy if appropriate emission management mechanisms can be evolved.
The major green house gas contribution of Indian households is from their electricity usage as about 64% of the power generated in the country is by thermal power plants (OIFC, 2010) which release green house gases (GHG) into the atmosphere during the electricity generation process. Another unnoticed but important source of households GHG emissions is from the slow leakage of refrigerants that are used in air conditioners and refrigerators. These refrigerants are commonly referred to as ozone depleting substances due to their destructive effect on the stratospheric ozone layer. Additionally these refrigerants are strong GHG gases which can have up to 10,000 times the global-warming impact of carbon dioxide therefore also contribute to climate change. Thus old energy inefficient domestic refrigerators and air conditioners as long as they are in use until safely disposed are a source of green house gases and therefore agents of climate change.
Lately, there have been some development in the domestic refrigeration sector in India .Ozone friendly domestic refrigerators have been introduced in the markets and the Bureau of Energy Efficiency’s (BEE) is planning to launch super energy efficient appliance program. The ozone free green refrigerators do not use substances that have depleting effect on ozone layer and also contribute very little to the global warming compared to the options available in the market. The super energy efficient refrigerators can save 30-40% more electricity in comparison to the existing top rated energy efficient appliances. But both these efforts are independent, the need is to integrate the mechanical changes with the low ozone depleting and global warming refrigerant use to design appliances that are low on energy consumption and very high on environmental performance.
Replacing the old refrigerators with newer high energy efficient versions will help utilities and households save electricity. Large scale adoption of such super efficient versions of refrigerators can play a significant role in shaving the peak loads during the peak hours in each state of India (during the period 2007-2010, 481 MW was saved as people bought new star-rated energy efficient versions ). Refrigerators sold during 2010-2020, if are high energy efficient, can avoid CO2 emissions of 259 million tonnes by saving on electricity (McNeil, Iyer, Meyers, Letschert, & McMahon, 2005).
Further, alternate refrigerant use will lower green house potential through which GHG abatement can be achieved. Replacement of the old refrigerators can help contain the refrigerant linked GHG emissions. A Department of Energy (DoE) estimate shows that in 2003 around 2.8 million refrigerators in India were using chlorofluorocarbon (CFC ) gas as refrigerant (Appliance Magazine, 2005). Assuming that 50% of such appliances are still in use, the estimated GHG potential of this CFC stock is equivalent to 0.667 million CO2 tonnes .
Despite all the financial and environmental benefits associated with the development of new technology refrigerators, it will be difficult for the mass adoption of such appliances under business as usual scenario. Refrigerators have an average life of 15-20 years and are the costliest appliances in the Indian kitchen. Also, the improved versions (energy efficient and environmentally safe) will cost more than the existing options. With 18% Indian households already owning a refrigerator, the manufacturers of improved refrigerators will largely be dependent on first time buyers for their sales. In addition consumers will be financially burdened if they choose improved refrigerators over regular models. Since consumers value instant benefits over future savings, the climate benefits and accrued financial benefits from electricity savings won’t be a motivation to invest in relatively costlier option.
Thus in order to avail environmental and energy saving benefits from the newer models of refrigerators, mechanisms need to be designed to support mass adoption of improved versions. Large scale diffusion of newer appliances will only be possible with targeted and well crafted programs that are supported by the utilities and governments and made acceptable to households by lowering appliance transition barriers. Innovatively infusing financial mechanisms into designing of appliance replacement programs can help achieve this transition. The collaboration between industry and government needs to be redefined to produce appropriate products that are guided by the long term national welfare and environmental quality concerns.
Replacing the existing old appliances with the energy efficient and environmentally safe models can be achieved through domestic appliance replacement program. Such program also has the potential of benefiting from global carbon management strategies and tools. Under the current regulated carbon markets, green house gas emission abatement achieved from appliance linked electricity usage and refrigerant associated emission negation can be translated to carbon financing.
All the newer appliance associated benefits if translated to monetary advantages can help attracting market and state players who find proposition in participating in projects that replace older refrigerators with energy efficient and environmentally safe versions.
Writer is a senior consultant with Emergent Ventures International at their New Delhi office.
Appliance Magazine. (2005, Jan 13). CFC Refrigerators to be Phased Out in India. Retrieved July 10, 2011, from Appliance Magazine: http://www.appliancemagazine.com/news.php?article=7974&zone=0&first=
McNeil, M., Iyer, M., Meyers, S., Letschert, V., & McMahon, J. E. (2005). Sustainable Electrical Energy. New York: International CopperAssociation Ltd.
OIFC. (2010, June 29). Sector in Focus: Indian Power Industry. Retrieved July 7, 2011, from Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre : http://www.oifc.in/Article/Sector-in-Focus-Indian-Power-Industry
Times of India. (2011, April 29). Natural Resources & Management / Conservation. Retrieved July 4, 2011, from Environmental Information Centre: Department of Environment : Natural Resources & Management / Conservation