Power load: Smart AC in works for post-Covid era

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June 21, 2021 4:00 AM

Given the pandemic experience and growing power demand, an EESL initiative is seeking to improve safety and efficiency in air-conditioned public spaces

For indoor settings, ventilation is usually poorer when compared to outdoor locations. (Representational Image)

As hot and humid weather conditions worsen owing to climate change and economic growth pulls more people out of poverty, air-conditioning will become a far greater need than it is today. So much so that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has predicted India’s electricity consumption for cooling purposes growing six-fold to 650 billion units by 2040, which would be more than Germany’s electricity consumption at present. This calls for energy efficiency measures in areas ranging from building construction and design to consumer durables and appliances. When seen against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, it also demands air circulation of a quality that keeps the indoor environment healthy even as it lowers power consumption.

It is with these concerns in mind that the Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) has partnered the US Agency for International Development under the ‘MAITREE’ programme. Its ‘Retrofit of Air-conditioning to improve Indoor air quality for Safety and Efficiency (RAISE)’ initiative aims to modify air-conditioning and ventilation systems by offering one solution for filtration, disinfection and ventilation needs.

“Certainly the demand for air circulation and filtering systems will grow in the post-pandemic world, in which indoor air quality will be an important concern,” says Somesh Kumar, partner and national leader – power and utilities, EY, adding “building design will need to balance both natural and mechanical ventilation requirements to reduce the impact on overall power demand”.

While the issue was being raised even before the pandemic given the rising pollution levels, the spread of the coronavirus has lent it urgency, as the cooling systems of public buildings like offices, shopping malls and hospitals are unable to contain the circulation of viruses in spaces without natural ventilation. Rajat Sud, managing director, EESL, tells FE, “There has been a dearth of comprehensive solutions to deal with the issue. Air filters, while necessary, are ill-equipped to curb the spread of pathogens that are miniscule in size”. The RAISE programme uses the novel ‘Air Sampler’ technology developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) that enables the sampling of pathogens, including the Covid-19 virus, every 30 minutes to monitor air quality. A UV disinfection tray, also developed by CSIR, would be installed in existing AC ducts and could also be used at places with space constraints.

Talking of the future, Nilaya Varma, CEO of consulting firm Primus Partners says, “though there has been a significant rise in demand from households for air filtration equipment, most industries are yet to install such equipment for hygiene and environmental purposes. This could change given the COVID-19 experience”.

According to the India Cooling Action Plan charted by the environment ministry, the total centralised air-conditioning space for large buildings is expected to grow by seven times to 38 million tonnage of refrigeration (TR) by FY38. Even if half of the upcoming demand is met through the RAISE programme, it would translate into business worth around Rs 7,600 crore for EESL. As a start, EESL is utilising the Rs 350-cr credit line available with it for disinfection of air conditioning in public spaces. As pilot projects, EESL has implemented RAISE in its own building at SCOPE complex, the NTPC office building in New Delhi and a few smaller government offices. It is also in advanced discussions with the NHAI, Diesel Loco Modernisation Works (DMW) Patiala, Safdarjung Hospital and income tax buildings.

The company is targetting government entities and public sector enterprises such as railway production units, income tax buildings, hospitals, government hotels, airports and large building complexes as potential subscribers of the RAISE initiative. As for the private sector, it has initiated talks with hotel chains, property management agencies, hospitals and small traders.

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