Rapid urbanization, increasing incomes, and rising temperatures are driving more Indians to buy cooling appliances. Cooling demand is projected to be a significant driver of future electricity consumption; between 2019 and 2030, it is estimated that 4.8 billion new units of cooling equipment will be sold globally, resulting in a large rise in greenhouse gas emissions. India ranks first among lower-middle income countries with an increasingly affluent middle class purchasing their first air conditioner (AC). While 8% of the current Indian households have room ACs, this is predicted to grow six-fold in less than twenty years. The associated energy use is non-trivial; in Delhi alone, energy use for cooling accounts for 40–60% of the peak summer load. Therefore, understanding the growth in cooling demand, and finding ways to sustainably shape its trajectory, remains a critical task not only for India’s energy future, but for its efforts to mitigate climate change.
Moving towards a low-carbon cooling pathway requires an understanding of the factors driving energy demand. However, little is understood about the dynamics of changing cooling consumption in India. How is cooling conceptualised, and what cooling options do people use? How, when and why are people purchasing and using their ACs? Who is buying energy-efficient ACs? And is cooling consumption gendered?
New research by the Centre for Policy Research and the University of Oxford examines these fundamental questions around India’s cooling transition. Using descriptive statistics, machine learning, and regression analysis, Radhika Khosla, Anna Agarwal, Neelanjan Sircar, and Deepaboli Chatterjee unpack cooling demand in one of the fastest and largest urbanising regions in the world. They draw on survey data from over 2000 households in Delhi to analyse perceptions of thermal comfort, characterize the conditions under which households show greater AC use, and examine the factors contributing to more energy-efficient cooling choices.
Key Insights and Research Findings
Interested in learning more? The paper The What, Why, and How of Changing Cooling Energy Consumption in India’s Urban Households by Radhika Khosla, Anna Agarwal, Neelanjan Sircar, and Deepaboli Chatterjee also provides policy recommendations for a low-carbon cooling trajectory in India.
(This post originally appeared on Environmentality, a blog by the Initiative for Climate, Energy and Environment at the Centre for Policy Research.)