Global quadrupling of cooling appliances to 14 billion could see staggering increase in world’s energy consumption – new report

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Soaring global demand for cooling by 2050 could see world energy consumption for cooling increase by 90% as the number of cooling appliances quadruples to 14 billion, according to a new report by the University of Birmingham.

This new report sets out to provide, for the first time, an indication of the scale of the energy implications of ‘Cooling for All’.

With populations increasing, expanding urbanisation 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 and the University of Birmingham report authors forecast that the 14 billion devices needed by 2050 will consume three 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, 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 world ‘cooling budget’ of 6,300 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, a whole new system approach to cooling is needed, recognising available free and waste cold and heat resources and incorporating new technologies, data connectivity and thermal energy storage to meet demand in the most efficient way.

Professor Toby Peters, ‘A Cool World’ report author from the University of Birmingham’s Energy Institute, said: “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.

“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.”

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