This should have been the ‘Maggi crisis’ equivalent for Samsung India. But sadly, it isn’t.

Earlier this week, I stumbled on an ad. in the Deccan Herald, by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency. This unassuming one!

The ad actually calls out a Samsung branded fridge for failing the energy efficiency test. It seems the fridge was being sold with a 2-star rating and it failed even that!

To me, this failing of the test is as important or critical as Maggi failing the test for lead content, which led to one of the biggest crisis for the brand in India. Or, a more direct comparison could be the Volkswagen emission scandal.

The similarity is glaring: In March 2014, an officer of the Uttar Pradesh Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA) picked up Maggi samples as part of a routine test. The samples, taken from Barabanki, were sent to a laboratory in Gorakhpur, which ‘confirmed’ the presence of monosodium glutamate (MSG). Here, BEE is publicly reprimanding Samsung for failing its energy rating test! No more action – no more punishment for the brand!

The point is, when it comes to what goes inside us, we are hyper-careful and take all tests, ratings and certifications very seriously – date of expiry, ingredients, ISI etc.

But when it comes to a range of electrical devices failing a star rating that it had been given, it is a simple and completely ignored/forgotten ad by DAVP (Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity is the nodal agency of the Government of India for advertising for various ministries and departments).

This nonchalance will be very costly.

I searched the BEE website to see how often devices are tested and if there are periodic notifications for all other devices, particularly air conditioners. I couldn’t find any. I don’t recall seeing such an ad. earlier (I may have missed it too).

But given our population and increase in the use of electrical devices, it is perhaps critical for the Government to seriously ramp up ongoing testing and dump low-rating/failed-rating devices.

In this connection, I came across a video on Twitter, by World Economic Forum (WEF) that was titled, “This is India’s ambitious plan to stop air conditioning from destroying the planet”.

A relevant excerpt from the full article:

India faces a daunting problem: how to provide access to cooling to its citizens without warming the planet. India has among the most cooling degree days in the world—more than 3,000 per year. A cooling degree day is the number of degrees that a day’s average temperature is above 65° Fahrenheit (18° Celsius), which is the temperature above which buildings need to be cooled. Summers in the northern and western parts of the country are already extremely hot, with average temperatures ranging from 89.6°F (32°C) to over 113°F (45°C).

With these extreme heat events, the need for access to cooling should be viewed as a basic necessity. While the household ownership of ACs in India today is a mere 7%, the demand for comfort cooling is expected to drive the total stock of room ACs to over 1 billion by 2050 – a 40-fold growth from 2016. To put this in perspective, of the roughly 290 million households in India, fewer than around 20 million have ACs. Growth in the demand for cooling will be dramatic, particularly in urban areas. The operation of these AC units will also have an impact on our climate. The emissions associated with their electricity consumption and refrigerants will only exacerbate the global temperature rise.

You may have seen the star rating shown in the DAVP ad above, on electrical devices, already.

It’s called “Indian Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio” (ISEER), meaning the ratio of the total annual amount of heat that the equipment may remove from the indoor air when operated for cooling in active mode to the total
annual amount of energy consumed by the equipment during the same period.

This rating is provided by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).

Last year, a legitimate move by the Indian Government, based on data from BEE, came under undue and unfair ridicule – the idea was to ask AC manufacturers to maintain default temperature setting at 24 degrees centigrade.

Why was this move good? Because user-inertia, in large numbers, ensures that people don’t change the default. This is the reason why Google wants Chrome to the default browser, for instance, in Android devices. Or why Microsoft was penalized for making Internet Explorer default in Windows devices.

In connection, it is heartwarming (pun unintended) to know that the Government of India, through its Department of Science of Technology and other nodal ministries, has initiated the Global Cooling Prize, along with the Rocky Mountain Institute and Mission Innovation (MI), a global initiative of 24 countries and the European Commission.

The prize envisions a “5X solution” – a cooling solution that has one-fifth of the climate impact of the commonly sold room AC units in the market today, taking into account both the grid-supplied electricity consumption and refrigerant global warming potential of the technology.

The prize’s lead implementation partner is The Department of Science and Technology, a department within the Ministry of Science and Technology in India.

This is an excellent initiative and a really needed long-view into the future.

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