The Future of Cooling

The Future of Cooling

The Future of Cooling
International Energy Agency

The 2018 IEA report – “The Future of Cooling” – made very clear that global energy demand from air conditioners is expected to triple by 2050. If today the global stock of AC is 1.6 billion, it will grow up to 5.6 billion by 2050, which amounts to 10 new ACs sold every second for the next 30 years, according to the report.

John Dulac, one of the main authors of the report replies to some of our questions, which are going to be key for our project:

ENERGYAIn a recent study based on the 2011 OECD EPIC survey, we find evidence that warmer climatic conditions increase the probability of adopting air conditioners, whereas they do not influence proactive adaptation strategies such as improving thermal insulations of buildings. In this context, what is the role of policy and technological change in fostering/promoting more sustainable forms of cooling?

John Dulac, IEA: “Through stringent minimum energy performance standards and other measures such as labelling, the average energy efficiency of the stock of ACs worldwide could more than double between now and 2050. This would greatly reduce the need to build new electricity infrastructure to meet rising demand. Making cooling more efficient would also yield multiple benefits, making it more affordable, more secure, and more sustainable.

In addition,  the underlying need for cooling can also be greatly reduced by better building design and tougher building codes, as well as by increased rates of energy efficiency improvements in existing buildings. The design and architecture of buildings has a major impact on the need for mechanical cooling and other energy services. For instance, traditional building structures such as awnings, overhangs, porticos and trellises provide shading to buildings and help reduce solar heat gain, but there is a trend in many parts of the world away from such features, typically on the grounds of cost.

Yet, a range of both high-tech and low-tech solutions that affect energy use for space cooling can be incorporated during building construction or added by the occupants or owners of the building later on. When they are designed and operated correctly, these technologies, which often draw on the wisdom and experience of cooling buildings in times before mechanical cooling was invented, can both increase comfort and reduce energy use. Policies need to take those opportunities into consideration and encourage solutions that are available or that are arising, for instance through digital technologies, to make cooling services and thermal comfort in buildings more sustainable.”