District cooling costs less than personal ACs

How has your Indian journey been so far?
This is version 3.0 of our existence in India. Version 1.0 was when Larsen and Toubro came to India in the ‘60s. Danfoss was represented initially through distribution and in version 2.0 we started a small joint venture in Faridabad. We bought out all the distribution in 1999. A subsidiary was set up in OMR, Chennai. Now in the last 16 years, we have grown from a company that was $5-6 million to about $160 million now. Currently, we have about 1,000 people.

What is your current focus?
We are predominantly looking at India as two parts: One is to build a strong business for our products and portfolio and increase penetration of our products which is still significantly very low.

Now as a company, we are working on many themes. One is on the commercial air conditioning and the second one is on urban efficiency, which is a theme we are promoting world-wide. We are also working closely with the World Energy Forum.

When you look at commercial air conditioning, it consumes 30-40 per cent of the energy that is needed to cool the building. So on one side we need 83 GW of power in the next six years. On the other side, you have a peculiar problem where we have huge swings in air conditioning.

Commercial air conditioning is costly now but with energy efficient technology it costs 20 per cent lesser. More than the cost, it cuts down carbon footprint.

Now in this context, the government is talking about making electricity for all and rural electrification. But our view is that the biggest challenge for India is we need to get our urban cities right in terms of energy consumption. The reason I say this is, from a GDP generation point of view, cities account for 70 per cent of the GDP. Cities are also the culprit for the peak load of 40 per cent when the cooling loads go up.

The problem is not in the villages. The problem is in the cities. This is the main issue which leads to lack of electricity in villages also. So our view is we are promoting awareness on how to get the urban cities right.

What are the new technologies on offer for energy efficiency?
We are unveiling and promoting energy efficient turbocor compressors which are centrifugal, oil-free chillers. Large infrastructure projects such as hotels, metro-stations and airports are energy guzzlers. In homes, you will not consume so much. China is replicating these models across its commercial buildings.

Turbocor is 25 per cent more efficient than a screw compressor technology prevalent in India.

The second technology that we have is district cooling. In a gated community with 3,000 houses, you don’t need an AC for each room. District cooling circulates cold air like how electricity flows in a pipe. Cold air flows in a pipe. So you only fit the indoor equipment and use the cold air for air conditioning purposes. That technology offers another 30-40 per cent savings for the air conditioning load. This is also one of the technologies that the World Energy Forum has suggested as one of the 10 most disruptive technologies for the future.

We have identified cities like Rajkot, Pune, Thane, Bhopal and Coimbatore for implementing district cooling. Danfoss is a member of this initiative and will be a technology provider. We are now working with the local government, Ministry of Power, MNRE, local municipalities and investors. Rajkot is the second-largest growing city globally. The pilot will take at least 2-3 years. District cooling works better in a cluster model.

Has it been tried elsewhere?
We are into district heating and cooling. In China, so far, we have done heating for cold climates. In the Middle East, India and Malaysia we are into district cooling. Steel plants generate waste-heat energy. We use that to cool air, using heat pumps.

How does commercial air conditioning help institutions?
We are rolling out new technologies which cut energy by 30-35 per cent in commercial buildings as they consume a lot of electricity.

The penetration of air conditioners in India is eight per cent and is expected to grow to 30 per cent in ten years. Cities are energy guzzlers. That’s why we need to get our urban infrastructure for cooling right. Like in the case of ease of doing business, the Government must also introduce initiatives where state governments compete on making cities more energy-efficient. For this, we need to focus on multiple pain points – capability building, skill development and financing.

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