There is an urgent need to address the existential threat that climate change poses to humanity. The scale and complexity of climate change mean that there is no panacea, it will require the sum effect of multiple solutions of various scales and in various geographies to make a dent in what can only be described as humanity’s greatest challenge.

One solution that will be crucial for developing countries like India is to increase the energy efficiency of common household appliances like ceiling fans. You may be surprised to learn that ceiling fans account for nearly 25% of household energy usage in India. Without even considering commercial establishments, this accounts for 6% of total energy consumption in the country – making it an easy avenue to reduce household energy consumption. Energy efficiency interventions for common appliances like ceiling fans will be crucial to enable the difficult transition from fossil fuels to green energy.

The most energy-efficient ceiling fans that are currently available in the market are fans that use brushless direct current electric motors (BLDC motors), a technology that requires an electronic motor controller to drive the rotor. BLDC motor ceiling fans are up to 50% more energy efficient than regular induction motor fans.  They also require less maintenance, produce less heat and run quieter than standard induction motor fans. Currently, 97% of electrified Indian homes have at least one ceiling fan, however, less than 5% of these are BLDC ceiling fans.

The stars are aligned 

While it is clear that BLDC motors are a ready technology to drastically improve the energy efficiency of ceiling fans, the question then becomes how we can encourage their adoption. This is where the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) steps in. Created by Parliament In 2001 through the Energy Conservation Act, the BEE is intended to reduce energy density by addressing device efficiency and energy wastage.

The flagship program of the BEE is the Standards and Labeling (S&L) scheme. More commonly known as the Star Ratings scheme, the primary objective of the S&L scheme is to enable consumers to make informed choices when buying consumer appliances by providing the energy cost saving potential of any given product category. The BEE lays down minimum energy performance standards and displays the energy performance of any given product by affixing a label with a star rating. Products with the maximum energy efficiency earn five stars.

The Star Ratings scheme covers a total of 28 different consumer products like air conditioners, fridges and ceiling fans. But, displaying star ratings are only mandatory for 10 of those, and is voluntary for the remaining 18. Voluntary rating products will be brought under the mandatory rating scheme in a phased manner. Ceiling fans will require mandatory star rating from July 2022 onwards.

This will require certification of all new model ceiling fans sold in India from July 2022. The star ratings of ceiling fans are arrived at by product testing as per IS 374 (Indian Standard 374) in a NABL approved lab. The star rating of a product is dependent on its service value (air delivery divided by energy consumption), The higher the service value the higher the star rating.

The implication of mandatory star rating of ceiling fans is tremendous. The first major area that will be affected will be government procurement. The cost savings of energy-efficient technologies like BLDC ceiling fans will be attractive to government bodies that have a large installed base of ceiling fans in both offices and housing. Government tenders for new projects and retrofitting old ceiling fans will be the first to drive the mass adoption of BLDC ceiling fans while public awareness grows.

The cost savings of BLDC fans will also prove attractive to large scale industrial users like the textile industry and other industries with large energy costs that can be attributed to ceiling fans.

As retail consumer awareness grows, government and industrial requirements will drive volumes, with trade and e-commerce volumes expected to overtake institutional volumes by the end of 2022

Innovation and economies of scale are also helping BLDC fans become more attractive propositions to consumers. For example, BLDC ceiling fans could only be adjusted by a remote controller. This hindered adoption as most people are used to adjusting their fans through wall regulators and do not want the added inconvenience of finding a remote control. But new BLDC fans avoid this constraint and are compatible with wall regulators.

Raising the ceiling

While the Star Ratings scheme will help kickstart the adoption of BLDC fans, it will need to be supplemented by complementary measures to have an immediate impact. A good example of such a measure is the Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for ALL (UJALA) scheme of the Ministry of Power. The UJALA scheme, which recently celebrated its seventh year anniversary, has been a massive success leading to a tenfold increase in the adoption of LED light bulbs. The USP of the scheme is its innovative bulk procurement process, which guarantees volumes of business that enable manufacturers to increase economies of scale but distributes LEDs at a subsidised cost to end consumers. An UJALA-like scheme for BLDC fans would help the adoption of the technology, which is still relatively more expensive to purchase than conventional fans.

Hopefully, the revision of Star Ratings for ceiling fans is just the beginning of an energy-efficient revolution in India. The scheme has the potential to alter the course of the domestic industries and consumption patterns for a variety of consumer appliances. When coupled with effective policies like UJALA it can drastically impact entire markets in relatively short time frames. This is the need of the hour, and it is imperative that we utilise these tools to address relatively low hanging fruit in energy efficiency like ceiling fans before moving on to more complex challenges.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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