Valerie Eacret, ERS, for Zondits
As temperatures in the northern hemisphere start to climb, many of us reach for the thermostat and turn on the air conditioning – in our homes, at work, and in our cars. People who don’t crank the A/C typically fall into one of two buckets: those who have it but choose not to use it to lessen their environmental impact, and those who don’t have it, often for lack of financial means and/or availability.
One study completed last year found that the number of people worldwide with A/C is significantly increasing. Notably, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that 15 years ago China had “just a few percentage points of air conditioning penetration,“ and that figure has risen above 100% today, with more than one A/C unit per urban household. Not surprisingly, air conditioning is strongly correlated with income. And while it’s wonderful that an increasing number of people can be protected from intense heat, ramping up A/C worldwide will have environmental consequences. The LBNL report estimates that 700 million air conditioners will be added by 2030 and 1.6 billion by 2050 ‒ the equivalent of adding seven new countries to the world, if measured by greenhouse gas emissions.A 30% bump in A/C efficiency & HFC removal could offset the construction 1,550 peak power plants. Click To Tweet
Increasing the efficiency of the units and eliminating hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) will both help reduce these emissions. A 30% bump in efficiency combined with the removal of HFCs from the units could offset the construction of an estimated 1,550 peak power plants. But there are other solutions in the works as well, including the demand response solution that would allow a user and/or utility to shut off an air conditioner remotely for a period of time, presumably when the grid reaches its peak. Although being personally cognizant of efficiency in your own air conditioning purchase will help shift the market, a major transformation of the marketplace will be largely dependent on hotels and other businesses that purchase large volumes.