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Soaring global need for cooling by 2050 could see world energy consumption for cooling increase five times as the number of cooling appliances quadruples to 14 billion — say researchers with the University of Birmingham, UK.

The report is the first to indicate how much energy would be required to provided “cooling for all.”

Effective cooling is not only essential to preserve food and medicine, it is fundamental to industry and economic growth. It is seen as key to sustainable urbanization and key to reducing rural poverty.

With significant areas of the world projected to experience temperature rises that place them beyond those which humans can survive, cooling will increasingly be needed to make much of the world bearable – or even safe – to live in. With populations increasing, expanding urbanization and climate change impacts leading to more frequent heatwaves and temperature rises, the demand for more cooling will increase in the decades ahead.

There are currently 3.6 billion cooling appliances around the world today. The University of Birmingham report authors forecast that the 14 billion devices needed by 2050 will consume five times the amount of energy currently predicted for cooling usage.

The report – A Cool World – Defining the Energy Conundrum of ‘Cooling for All’ – states that, by 2050, if we are to meet our Paris Climate targets to hold temperature increases to 2C, total energy consumption for cooling must be limited to 6,300 TWh.

Without action beyond current technology capabilities and efficiency gains, cooling could account for 19,600 TWh of energy consumption per year, against a current annual usage of 3,600 TWh. Even with new technologies coming on board, the annual energy requirement will be 15,500 TWh.

The report states that, along with aiming to reduce overall demand, if we are to meet our climate goals a whole new system approach to cooling is needed, recognizing available free and waste cold and heat resources and incorporating new technologies, data connectivity, thermal energy storage to meet demand in the most efficient way.

“Current projections do not consider a ‘Cooling for All’ scenario and it will be impossible to meet the UN’s sustainable development goals as well as the Paris climate change targets. If we are to meet either of these, relying on technology efficiency and greening electricity won’t be sufficient,” said Professor Toby Peters, ‘A Cool World’ report author from the University of Birmingham’s Energy Institute.

“The challenge now is how to start with a system-led approach, better harnessing a portfolio of energy resources and adopting novel technologies. In order to achieve this, we need to start by asking ourselves a new question – no longer ‘how much electricity do we need to generate?’ but rather ‘what is the service we require, and how can we provide it in the least damaging way.”

Given the urgency and need to combine engineering and social sciences for an integrated approach that includes the behaviour of individuals, technical solutions, and the business models to make those solutions viable, they also urge the creation of an international centre for excellence: its aim to deliver global collaboration on cooling — enhance awareness and understanding of the challenge of cooling; to build a roadmap and deliver the innovation pipeline; provide skills and education, and lead on trialling new technologies at scale.

The report builds on the University’s research partnerships in India and Birmingham recently signed an agreement with the State Government of Haryana to advance the use of ‘clean cold’ technology in India and help meet rising demand for cooling sustainably.


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