Archive for January, 2014


Hydrochlorofluorocarbons and Chinese strategy

China, about two years ago,  launched US$265 million Ozone and climate change project (HCFC= hydrochlofluorocarbons- Phase-out Management Plan: HPMP). China Ministry of Environmental protection launched this project to  phase out (HCFCs) by January 2015.  As on date the country is plan schedule is on track and it will meet the target by 2015!!! Even though this policy is going to affect industrial production,  whose total output amounts to billions of Renminbi, 100 large companies, that produce and use HCFCs, guaranteed their support to the programme. In addition, several companies like  room air conditioning, industrial and commercial refrigeration sectors pledged their support and agreed to change their production strategy to accommodate HPMP plan. China produces 70% of world HCFC production and consumes 50% of total consumption of HCFC among the developing countries. The consumption is mainly in air-conditioners, industrial and commercial refrigeration sectors. By this act China will be implementing successfully Montreal Protocol.

What is the secret of China’s vision in launching this mission?

The secret lies in China’s determination in implementing GSHP ( Ground Source Heat Pump; Ground Coupled Heat Pump-GCHP; Ground Heat Pump- GHP; Groundwater Heat Pump-GWHP….all mean the same) systems to cool or heat space and reduce CO2 as well as HCFC emissions. GSHP is able to completely off-set air conditioning  systems and provide heat to regions with adverse cold climatic conditions. These systems use ground heat, groundwater, surface water as heat source and sink. GSHPs are more efficient than conventional air-conditioning systems because earth provides  lower temperature for cooling and higher temperature for heating with minimum temperature fluctuation relative to the air temperature fluctuation. GSHP being renewable technology and have very low environmental impact due to low CO2 emissions, it has attracted several countries, with China being the leader in using and developing this technology. The technology is very matured and systems can be installed adopting the local temperature variations. According to the reports published in the World Geothermal Congress 2010, up to the year 2010 (ending December 2009) the installed capacity of GSHP in the world is 50583  MWt and the energy generated was 438071 TJ/year (121696 GWh/y: CF of 0.27). The country that has the highest installed capacity of GSHP is USA (12611 MWt) followed by China ( 8898 MWt).  In China the amount of utilizable geothermal energy (for space cooling and heating) at shallow depths, according to a news  published in “Renewable Energy” in 2011, is equivalent to about 350 million tons of standard coal, which is equivalent to 2.8 million GWh of electricity. If this energy source is tapped, then this will reduce emission of 500 million tons of CO2 by avoiding to mine 250 million tons of coal. The extractable geothermal energy in China’s 12 major geothermal provinces is equivalent to about 853 billion tons of standard coal that could generate seven billion GWh of electric power!! Use of this source will reduce CO2 emissions by 1.3 billion tons. GSHP projects in China.


China is using its GSHP technology to adjust/ modify its energy structure to reduce CO2 and other GHG emissions. Today in China research on GSHP technology is given top priority with full government support. Thus academic institutions, industries and companies are enjoying a boom with regard to this technology and it is paying rich dividends to the country today. According a paper published in the Proceedings of the World Geothermal Congress 2010, China has proved its supremacy in GSHP technology by providing 26% of energy to the Olympic Games in 2008 from geothermal sources. Excellent examples where such GSHP technology in the Olympic games is seen from the Olympic tennis courts, the National Olympic Stadium ( Bird’s nest), National Swimming Centre and Olympic Gymnastics Hall and Badminton Hall. Besides this, the hostels for the athletes were also temperature controlled through GSHPs. For the tennis courts, 35 holes were drilled within a 7 x7m layout. This GHP unit has 138.2 kW heating capacity ( in put power 37.5 kW) and cooling capacity of 139.6 kW (in put power 32 kW). The Olympic National Stadium (Bird’s Nest) drilled 140 holes with depth of 80-100 m. With such a strong GSHP technology in hand, it is not surprising to read about China’s determination to reduce CO2 emissions and phase out HCFC by 2015 by adopting clean technology for space heating and cooling.  China has started pilot investigation on  EGS (Enhanced Geothermal Systems). By the 2020 the country should be in a position to perfect EGS and be the first country in South-East Asia to reduce CO2 and HCFC by 50%.  What ever be said and done, the country, its policies, the scientific and technical force are determined to meets its commitment made in public fore.


Although India has sufficiently large geothermal resources, conventional HAVC is ruling the space cooling sector..whether it is domestic or commercial establishments. Over 33% of electricity generated from coal fired thermal power plants is consumed by building sector amounting to 245 million MWh. A major part of this electricity is used for space cooling, refrigeration and hot water supply.   This amounts emission of 234 billion kg of CO2. India should learn lessons from its neighbour-China and implement the established GSHP technology and reduces the above amount of GHGs. India has the know and resources. What it needs is mind-set. Like China, India too has varied weather zones from north to south. GSHP can be used for heating space and cooling space wherever needed. The builder’s lobby is very apprehensive of accepting this technology and are heavily influenced by HAVC companies. The concept of “green buildings” what the builders talk about is related to making the building eco-friendly based on  solar water heaters, solar PV for out door lighting, water conservation methods ( wastewater treatment and recycling of water) and recharge of aquifers, lead free tiles and lead free paint, using smoke-less chullahs etc. etc. However, the response to such buildings seems to be poor. The reason- cost and payback period.  Only the customer and the builders know the inner details of such buildings and the cost and the demand. These data and designs are good for a research paper or an article in a design magazine, or can be experimented with in rural and remote inaccessible areas, where lighting two bulbs itself a matter of privilege. For a more holistic view the designers and builders have to learn a lot from Chinese and the European builders where cost and energy savings that in turn reduces CO2 emission. A four member, upper middle class family needs minimum of 500 kWh of electric power per month to have a comfortable living. This is without the luxury of having air-conditioning, microwave and limited use of Geyser system,. This will meet the bare minimum for the family. Extending this to a housing complex with 50 apartments, the minimum electric power requirement will be of the order of 40 kWe ( assuming the electric supply is from coal based power plants). Installing solar PV system over such housing complex is feasible but the cost of unit of power will be prohibitive (~ 37 US cents). Even with subsidies, the unit cost ( ~24 US cents) can not be brought down to  single digit!! The area required to generate such power based on solar PV will be about 3000 sq.ft ( assuming a PLF of 0.18 but this is not so always and the average PLF can be about 0.08).  Of course at least 10 invertors are required. Any surge of power will trip the system. The buildings will not have air conditioning system……..that was considered a luxury a decade ago but it has become necessity now with the amount of dust particles floating in any major urban city and radiation from the buildings ( green cover is fading away)!!.

Clean Development Mechanism is an excellent instrument for India to raise above all the non-OECD countries in reducing  carbon emissions, earning carbon credits, improving the environmental and GDP growth in the next two decade provided it uses energy source mix and exploits its geothermal potential to its maximum. In order to exploit the potential barriers that obstruct the development of this energy source should be overcome and create or improve policies on sustainable renewable energies like those adopted by other countries like China.

Green buildings can be built by utilizing earth’s internal heat through geothermal heat pumps for space heating and cooling. Instead of installing solar heaters for hot waters, solar PV for lighting, using chullahs for cooking, installing biogas plants in the buildings, avoiding lead tiles and paints in the buildings, straight away 33% of electric power from coal power can be offset through geothermal both for electric power and space cooling. Cost is comparable to coal based electric power and urban elite can enjoy their comfort and still save carbon dioxide emissions and help the country to earn CER amounting to several millions of euros (World Geothermal Congress, 2010). Carbon trade with OECD countries can be avoided.

GSHP Systems can be bought off the shelf and there is sufficient knowledge base available in the country. GSHPs can be installed anywhere and is very cost effective.   Perhaps the NGO who showcased the green building should have known the existence of such systems in the world. We should provide what is feasible and adoptable easily to the consumer rather than suggesting high end solutions to the builders. Leave the wastewater treatment systems to central agencies. Maintaining such systems will add to the cost of the utility bills. When an easy alternate system that can create a green building without compromising comforts and routine is available why go for systems that needs time and energy of the urban residents during the week ends!