One major topic that often goes unnoticed in the global debate around climate change is the critical role of efficient space cooling solutions in lowering energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Driven by population increase, urbanization, economic growth and improvement in living standards, global demand for cooling has been growing significantly in the last couple of decades. Energy use for space cooling in buildings has more than tripled since 1990, making space cooling the fastest growing energy use in buildings, and leading to a steep increase in C02 emissions, up to 1,130 million tonnes globally — a major environmental impact.
Moreover, with space cooling now representing around 15 per cent of peak residential electricity demand — and up to 70 per cent in hotter countries such as in the Middle East — the rising demand for cooling significantly drives up the overall cost of generating and distributing electricity.
As global economic growth continues to shift south, to mostly hotter and under-equipped emerging countries, space cooling demand — and its environmental and economic impacts — will continue to soar.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates, in its baseline scenario, that the energy use of space cooling will more than triple by 2050, up to more than 6,000 terrawatts per hour each year, becoming the second-strongest driver in overall electricity demand growth. Similarly, the share of cooling in peak demand will continue to rise sharply, in particular in hotter countries, requiring expensive investments in peak generation and distribution capacity.
Strong and well-co-ordinated policy action is required to mitigate these impacts, in particular though the promotion and advancement of energy efficient equipment and solutions.
With energy consumption 20 to 30 per cent below that of the most efficient conventional cooling solutions, and 60 to 80 per cent below that of the average conventional cooling systems, district cooling has a major role to play in tackling this global challenge.
While district cooling has been growing steadily, its penetration (and that of other similar centralised air- and water-cooled chiller technology) has remained limited: around 2 per cent globally, and at most around 20 per cent in the most advanced market globally — the GCC.