Improving air conditioner efficiency could reduce global warming, report finds

Improving the energy efficiency of air conditioners could save up to 100 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050, according to new research from the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development (IGSD).

In a new report released today (21 July), IGSD highlights the benefits of improving the efficiency of air conditioning units will slash future carbon emissions.

The findings from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California also call for the parallel phase out of hydroflourocarbon (HFC) refrigerants under the ongoing Montreal Protocol.

IGSD president Durwood Zaelke said: “Improving energy efficiency of air conditioners can at least double the mitigation from phasing down the refrigerant known as HFCs, as most Parties to the Montreal Protocol are eager to do through an amendment this year.

“Past phase outs of refrigerants under the Montreal Protocol have catalyzed improvements in appliance energy efficiency on the order of 30 to 60%. Parallel efforts to set efficiency standards and to ban imports of inferior air conditioners could ensure that efficiency was improved even faster.”

Climate benefits

The research calculates a potential 1,200GW of electricity production could be avoided by improving global air conditioner efficiency, preventing up to 0.5 degrees of global warming alone.

The group estimates by reducing the demand on energy intensive air conditioners countries could potentially prevent thousands of power plants being constructed worldwide.

Lead author of the report Dr Nihar Shah said: “Efficient air conditioners are commercially available today and can save money for consumers by substantially lowering their operating costs.

“Our calculations take into account that there will be some rebound effect from efficiency improvements, as some users will use their air conditioners more when they are cheaper to operate.  Even with this, the climate and cost benefits are substantial.”

Cold future

Industry experts have repeatedly claimed the UK and other nations will miss carbon emissions targets without sustained investment in cold energy.

Researchers from the Birmingham Energy Institute said there was a risk of apathy towards energy efficiency in the refrigeration and cooling markets.

In 2014, the Carbon Trust called on the Government to seize the opportunity to become a world leader in developing low-carbon cooling technologies and lead the emerging global ‘cold economy’.

The IGSD has previously called for greater action on short-term climate pollutants, such as HFCs and black carbon emissions.

Matt Field

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