Efficient District Cooling in India

By 2050, space cooling in India could be responsible for ~1.1GtCO2.eq/yr and consume 28% of total electricity demand and 44% of peak load. Demand for space cooling will be concentrated in India’s rapidly growing cities driving power shortages and rising urban temperatures. The scaling-up of ongoing national and state-level programs for power sector decarbonization, MEPS and building efficiency measures will have a major role in lowering the environmental and economic impact of such growth. However, there are implicit cost and energy inefficiencies when individual buildings must produce their own cooling. This prevents buildings from accessing higher efficiency levels and large-scale renewable cooling that is only available by aggregating multiple buildings’ cooling demands.

Globally, shares of district cooling (DC) are growing rapidly and the technology is seen as the most efficient, low-carbon and cost-effective means to provide cooling to buildings in dense, urban areas and can deliver cost-effective refrigerant phase-down, significant reductions in peak power demand and balancing for the power system through thermal storage and trigeneration. As per UNEP’s classification of district energy markets, India is still a “new market”, but is seeing significant growth in district cooling deployment and interest since 2016. This momentum is materializing in new projects and the inclusion of district cooling in central government strategies and documents (e.g. India Cooling Action Plan, EESL National Potentials Study, BEE DCS Guidelines).

But for India to meet its net-zero commitment under the Paris Agreement and commitments under the Kigali Amendment the government needs to take significant steps to support and accelerate the market for district cooling. The alternative is that millions of square metres of real estate will continue to be constructed each year with little consideration for district cooling, locking in high-cost cooling and emissions for decades.

UNEP and UNEP-CCC in collaboration with GIZ will support the development of India’s district cooling industry and policy environment by establishing and staffing a global virtual knowledge centre within UNEP-CCC and directing on-the-ground support to the public and private sector through supporting the establishment of a physical competence centre in India. By concentrating knowledge and expertise on district cooling in India, these centres will increase the quality of consultancy and support provided to cities and the private sector by providing access to experts, helping to standardize the development process of district cooling and linking projects to expert partners. At the same time, the physical centre and its association with the government will provide legitimacy to the district cooling industry and expand support to critical policy development centrally and at the state level – particularly with MoP, MoHUA and MoEFCC. The physical centre will help to unify various partners in the district cooling industry, using the convening power of UNEP and GIZ, and connecting Indian industry to international processes on standards. The virtual centre, and it being embedded in UNEP-CCC, will provide longevity and assured long-term support. By working with UNEP and UNEP-CCC, the centre will also have enhanced access to similar efforts on district cooling in countries globally – enhancing international exchange

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Zhuolun Chen

Senior Advisor

Phone: +45 45 33 53 16
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