Room air conditioners (RAC) now account for up to 50% of off-grid peak load in major metropolitan areas of India. The growing RAC market in India corresponds to a rapid increase in commercial and residential electricity demand, but this expanded access to cooling also benefits human health, productivity and general quality of life. Cooling has become more important as India urbanizes, grows economically and experiences increasingly extreme weather conditions. It is therefore essential to regulate the performance of these products, as energy efficiency policy mitigates the risk that inefficient, environmentally harmful and poor quality RACs saturate the market.
India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) launched the labeling program for fixed-speed room air conditioners in 2006 with periodic revisions that substantially improved efficiency by 35%. Currently, the program covers both fixed and inverter units, assessing performance according to an Indian seasonal energy efficiency metric that accounts for temperature variance across different climatic zones. These RAC policies and subsequent revisions have resulted in significant market transformations towards higher efficiency products. In the last decade, annual sales of RACs in India have grown exponentially and avoided 38 million tons of carbon emissions per 2016-17 estimates. This paper analyses and discusses the trends in market growth, technology evolution and market transformation as a result of BEE’s policy program. The paper further explores possible efficiency improvements by 2030 and their climate impacts.
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