Cooling sector lagging behind on low-carbon innovation
With news emerging that last month was the joint-warmest April ever recorded, new analysis from CDP has warned that major consumer electronic and cooling appliance firms are failing to innovate technology to spur decarbonisation.
The new research from global non-profit CDP assessed 18 publicly listed companies in the cooling sector, which have a combined market capital of more than $550bn on product efficiency, emissions disclosure and spend on low-carbon innovation.
The study found that while US-based Trane Technologies, Japanese firm Mitsubishi Electric and South Korean business giant LG Electronics were leading the sector, there was a distinct lack of focus on decarbonisation.
CDP notes that R&D spend in the sector sits at just 2.2% of net sales, while examples of low-carbon innovation are largely based on small efficiency gains based on outdated technology. In contrast, CDP has previously claimed that the capital goods sector is on the "verge of a low-carbon industrial revolution" with numerous high-profile companies urged to turn to microgrids, energy storage and hybrid renewables to lower emissions and capture new economic opportunities.
Companies such as Schneider Electric, Vesta and CNH Industrial were found to be leaders across the ‘electrical equipment’, ‘industrial conglomerates’ and ‘heavy machinery’ fields by the CDP report, which notes that companies can capture “significant revenue opportunities” by introducing low-carbon technologies.
More broadly, just four of the 18 companies had set targets to reduce emissions across the value chain by 2050. Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric are targeting an 80% reduction, while Daikin Industries and Electrolux aim to achieve net-zero emission.
CDP’s head of investor research Carole Ferguson said: “It is striking to see how many companies scored poorly on climate-related opportunity metrics, showing that as a group there is little or no meaningful innovation. This is backed up by financial metrics such as their R&D spend, patent filings and capex/sales ratios.”
With lockdown still in place as part of a gradual phase-out and the heat from the summer months rising, refrigeration, air-conditioning and chillers are vital components for health and wellbeing.
The cooling market is currently valued at $300bn, with sales set to rise by 40% by 2030 compared to current levels.
On the environmental front, carbon emissions from cooling have tripled since 1990, and CDP notes that space cooling is set to become one of the biggest demands of growth in building electricity over the next 30 years.
Retailers have turned to their refrigeration units and technology to help slash emissions. In-store fridge technology has enabled Waitrose & Partners to reduce its energy use for refrigeration by more than 40%, while Sainsbury's has announced that its new Battersea Park Station has been fitted with its 400,000th Aerofoil technology solution that helps improve the energy usage of fridges.
In 2017, Sainsbury’s became the first UK supermarket to rollout an F1 inspired fridge technology. The aerofoil technology, used to make F1 cars more aerodynamic, helps to chill food while creating energy savings of up to 15% and keeping aisles up to 4C warmer for customers. Designed by F1 engineers William Advanced Engineering, the system steers cold air directly back down fridge units to stop cold air from spilling out onto the aisles.
Asda has also invested in the Formula-One-inspired fridge technologies.