27 April 2018

Cooling demand set to double world energy use by 2050

The University of Birmingham warned last week that the warming climate will cause the demand for cooling appliances to nearly double. Researchers predict energy use for air conditioners and refrigeration to jump 90% compared to 2017 levels.

The world’s first congress ‘A Cool World: 1st International Congress on Clean Cooling’ was held at the University of Birmingham last week. More than 100 cooling and energy efficiency experts attended to discuss the urgent topic on how to sustainably achieve the global demand for cooling.

Speaking at the congress, Professor Toby Peters from the University of Birmingham revealed that by 2050, some 9.5 billion cooling appliances would increase global energy demand for cooling to 7,500 TerawattHours (TWh) from the 2017 level of 3,900 TWh - even after allowing for the development of more efficient cooling technologies. Without decarbonising electricity production, this would result in an extra 2.5 GigaTonnes (GT) of carbon dioxide (CO2) being expelled into the atmosphere each year – bringing the total amount of CO2 due to cooling to more than 6GT, or nearly 50% of the world’s total target for direct CO2 emissions for 2050.

Professor Peters said: “Soaring carbon emissions from cooling are only half the picture. Under these projections much of the world would still only have low penetration levels of cooling. We would still have high levels of food loss, more of countries experiencing life threatening temperatures with no cooling and medicines and vaccines spoiled in the supply chain.
If we are to sustainably deliver cooling for all, we must stop thinking that green electricity and technology efficiency can meet the demand alone. Unless we think thermally, not just electrically, we are sitting on a carbon time-bomb. The challenge is how to embed this approach quickly enough to avoid investment in conventional equipment that lock in cooling emissions for years or decades.”

The biggest energy demand for cooling comes from air conditioning to keep people comfortable, but it is also essential for stopping food from going to waste and protecting medicines. While air conditioning in UK homes is a rarity today, Professor Peters said it is a question of when, not if, the technology will became normal for householders.

Global sales of cooling equipment are expected to increase from $140bn (£98bn) in 2018 to $260bn by 2050. That growth presents a challenge and also a chance for the UK to develop and export new technology.

The UK have taken the lead on developing cleaner and more efficient cooling, as part of a clean energy research initiative by 22 countries announced at the Paris Climate Summit. It is estimated that by 2050 the world will be consuming more energy for cooling than for heating. Unless sustainable and clean cooling solutions can be rolled out, this will cause high levels of pollution.

In January, the energy efficiency challenge also dominated the 2018 IOR (Institute of Refrigeration) Conference agenda. This event explored how heat recovery, integration and smart systems can help meet global demand for secure, affordable and sustainable energy services in order to reduce energy consumption. Using modern innovative examples, the programme explored how RACHP technologies can use a more integrated approach to heating and cooling. The event involved experts from government and academia with technology providers, working on major heat network and data centre projects to consider how smarter and integrated technology systems could meet the need for more efficient temperature management.

Conference chair Mike Nankivell said: “The growing importance of energy efficiency was clearly being felt across the industry, in both product design as well as the broader control and operation of systems.”

He highlighted that the concept of energy efficiency and a need to consider it within future cooling systems is now high on the industry agenda, and that the heating and cooling sectors are facing some very demanding challenges.

It seems that the global experts agree that societal, business and financial models, as well as aligned regulations are needed to allow “clean cooling” to be optimally integrated in a commercially sensible and technologically practical way. As an ecologically minded company, and a world leader of innovative, high efficiency technologies for ventilation and drive engineering, we provide access to reliable, energy efficient and space saving fans.

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