Opportunity for Britain to lead the way in low-carbon cooling, says carbon Trust

The Carbon Trust has issued calls for the Government and industry to collaborate to enable the UK to seize the opportunity of becoming the global leader in developing low-carbon cooling technologies for an emerging 'cold economy' brought about by an increasing demand for cooling.

The report – The Emerging Cold Economy – states that the global demand for cooling could grow to three times the current UK electricity capacity by 2030, due to the world’s expanding population and the growing middle class demographic in emerging markets.

In the report, the Carbon Trust highlights the need for UK energy policy to address the under-valued cooling sector and for the Government to carry out a full assessment of the opportunities a ‘cold economy’ could bring.

According to the Trust, the UK is ideally placed to take advantage of the cooling market due to a growing hub of clean cold research and expertise developing in the midlands, including the establishment of the £12m Birmingham Centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage.

A suite of low-carbon cold technologies are already in development, and the UK has world-class capabilities in cryogenics, engineering, manufacturing and finance.

Recycling and Waste

In the UK, cooling consumes 14% of UK electricity annually, equating to £5m in electricity costs each year. The Indian Government forecasts an investment need of $15bn on its cold chain over the next five years, and in China refrigerated storage capacity is on course to increase 20-fold by 2017.

Vast amounts of cold are also being wasted, such as during the re-gasification of LNG at import terminals, which could potentially be recycled to reduce the cost and environmental impact of cooling in both buildings and vehicles.

Cold technologies could also have a role in reducing global food wastage. Up to half of perishable food in developing countries rots before ever reaching the market due to the absence of cold chains. It is estimated that food wastage occupies a land area the size of Mexico; consumes 250 km3 of water per year, three times the volume of Lake Geneva; and accounts for 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon emissions.

“Turning the cold economy from an idea into reality will depend on joined-up thinking and collaboration by industry, academia and government to develop, test and deploy novel solutions,” said the Carbon Trust’s director of innovation David Sanders. With Britain’s rich history of innovation and engineering, we have a real opportunity to lead the way in low carbon cold technologies and drive innovative solutions from the lab to the market.” 

Value of cold

The report goes on to highlight the need for planning and investment to focus on three key areas: research, development; manufacturing; and skills. Research suggests that supporting the development of cold technologies would create more than 10,000 jobs by 2025 and in excess of 25,000 jobs by 2050 across development, manufacturing and after-sales support.

Head of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham Professor Richard Williams said: “Delivering cold to where it is most needed requires research across technical, business and policy areas. For example, the development of new materials and processes for efficient and cost-effective cooling and the creation of business systems models that seek to recognise the ‘value’ of cold. This will result in the creation of new policies for the UK and internationally.

“We aim to demonstrate deployment of associated new technologies and practices building on our research centres and see this as a significant area for growth in research, this in itself driving our regional economy.”

Lucinda Dann

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