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Air Conditioners

The Challenge Of Cooling

“The Government of India supports innovation challenge, which aims to develop sustainable and efficient technology to provide thermal comfort to all, and invites applicants from around the world to apply for The Global Cooling Prize.”
Dr Harsh Vardhan
Union Minister of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences, Environment, Forest and Climate Change,
Government of India

Comfort cooling represents one of the largest end-use risks to our climate, and the residential sector alone is set to account for an over 0.5ºC increase in global temperatures by 2100. A warming planet, rapid urbanization, growing population, and rising incomes are driving up the global demand for air conditioning, and under a business-as-usual growth trajectory, the number of room air conditioner (RAC) units in service is estimated to increase from 1.2 billion units today to 4.5 billion units by 2050. Much of this growth comes from emerging economies, which will see a 5x increase in the number of RACs between 2019 and 2050.

The most advanced commercially available, vapor compression-based RACs have achieved only about 14 percent of the theoretical efficiency limit; efforts to date have focused on meeting minimum performance standards and refrigerant transitions, and not transformative innovation in efficiency. Conventional solutions  will only address a portion of the challenge and cannot bring the industry anywhere close to neutralizing the impacts of the projected increase in the number of RACs. The world needs a radical change in comfort cooling technology, one that can effectively and assuredly offset the exponential increase in cooling energy demand and put us on a path to cooling with less warming.

In order to tackle the global challenge, the Government of India, Mission Innovation, and Rocky Mountain Institute recently launched The Global Cooling Prize, an international competition to find a residential cooling technology with at least 5x less climate impact than the standard room air conditioning units. Over USD 3 million will be awarded over the course of the 2-year competition. The prize is supported by Government of India, Mission Innovation and will be administered by Rocky Mountain Institute, Conservation X Labs, Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy, and CEPT University. The Prize coalition is expected to help identify the innovative cooling technology and support incubation, commercialization, and ultimately mass adoption around the world.

To offset the 5x increase in RAC cooling demand in the developing economies, the industry envisions a technology solution that has one-fifth of the climate impact as compared to current standard products – the 5x solution. Scaling the 5x solution is expected to be the most effective step for mitigating the climate impact of comfort cooling, bringing in cumulative emissions reductions of up to 100 gigatons by 2050, and helping in mitigating up to 0.5°C in global warming impact by 2100. A technology developed through the Global Cooling Prize has the opportunity to capture a USD 20 billion market and transform the global market for the better. A winning technology could prevent up to 100 gigatons of carbon emissions by 2050, and put the world on a pathway to mitigate up to 0.5˚C of global warming by 2100.

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