Decarbonising cooling emissions will suck up world's planned solar energy

Rising demand for cooling could see more than a 90% jump in energy use by 2050 that would consume all the world’s predicted solar PV capacity, it was revealed today.

Speaking at the world’s first ‘clean cold’ congress at the University of Birmingham, Professor Toby Peters revealed that, by 2050, some 9.5 billion cooling appliances would increase global energy demand for cooling to 7,500 TerawattHours (TWh) from the 2017 level of 3,900 TWh. This is even after allowing for the development of more efficient cooling technologies

Without decarbonising electricity production, this would result in an extra 2.5 GigaTonnes (GT) of carbon dioxide (CO2) pumped into the atmosphere each year – bringing the total amount of CO2 from cooling to more than 6GT, or nearly 50% of the world’s total target for direct Co2 emissions for 2050.

Professor Peters, from the University of Birmingham, said: “Soaring carbon emissions from cooling are only half the picture. Under these projections much of the world would still only have low penetration levels of cooling. We would still have high levels of food loss, more of countries experiencing life threatening temperatures with no cooling and medicines and vaccines spoiled in the supply chain.

“If we are to sustainably deliver cooling for all, we must stop thinking that green electricity and technology efficiency can meet the demand alone. Unless we think thermally, not just electrically, we are sitting on a carbon time-bomb. The challenge is how to embed this approach quickly enough to avoid investment in conventional equipment that lock in cooling emissions for years or decades.”

The University of Birmingham has brought together more than 100 cooling and energy efficiency decision-makers and experts at the world’s first congress on ‘clean cold’ to discuss the urgent topic of how to meet our global demand for cooling sustainably.

During the two-day 'Cool World' conference high-profile delegates from across the world will explore this most pressing of issues, as they identify the challenges and opportunities of providing access to affordable, sustainable cooling solutions for all.

Sir David King, Chair of the Regional Energy Policy Commission and former Special Representative for Climate Change, UK, opens the congress with a dual keynote address with Pawanexh Kohli, Chief advisor and CEO for the National Centre for Cold-chain Development in India.

It is estimated that by the middle of this century, the world will be consuming more energy for cooling than heating. Unless clean and sustainable cooling solutions can be rolled out, this will cause high levels of pollution.

Effective refrigeration is essential to preserve food and medicine. It underpins industry and economic growth, is key to sustainable urbanisation and provides a ladder out of rural poverty. It makes much of the world bearable - or even safe - to live in.

A key area of cooling – and topic for the Congress - is food chains. The lack of adequate cold storage and refrigerated transport causes the loss of 200 million tonnes of food with consequences far beyond hunger, farmer poverty and inflated food prices.

Post-harvest food loss occupies a land area almost twice the size of Australia, consumes 250km3 of water per year, three times the volume of Lake Geneva; and emits 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2, making it the third biggest emitter after the US and China.

A ‘Cool World’ will feature panel discussions, debates and workshops for end-users, academics, NGOs, industry and investor groups to explore key issues in detail. Other presenters include Jan Grimbrandt, Chairman at Boson Energy SA, Luxembourg; Thomas Tomski, of Emerson Commercial and Residential solutions; Dr Lisa Kitinoja, President of the Postharvest Education Foundation, USA; Guillermo Martinez, Commercial Manager for Araner, Spain; Nicola Twilley, Author of ‘The Birth of Cool’, USA; Ingo Wagner, Coordinator for Cooling EU, Belgium; and Professor Richard Williams, OBE, FREng, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Heriot-Watt University, UK.

Pawanexh Kohli commented: “Feeding the planet is not just the business of farmers. Refrigerated logistics is critical to managing our food resources, expanding market frontiers and reducing food loss. At the same time we also need to reduce the impact of our logistics on our environment, and that requires international collaboration. We need innovation today, to develop the sustainable cold chain of tomorrow.’

Delegates will also hear from Ian Crosby, Head of Cooling for All, an initiative created by Sustainable Energy for All and the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program to identify the challenges and opportunities of providing access to affordable, sustainable cooling solutions for all.

“One of the biggest challenges to the transition to clean cooling is skills. The European Commission has already reported a significant skills gap in low GWP refrigerants, and the challenge will be even greater in emerging markets,” said Thomas Tomski, Vice President Marketing at Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions.

“We need more investment in training engineers on the installation and maintenance of cooling systems in order to ensure they are sustainable. When choosing a new refrigeration system, retailers should also consider integral systems for accelerated roll-out. Since these systems are self-contained, easy to install and remove, and require little maintenance, they offer a solution where skills is a challenge.”

ENDS

For more information, please contact Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on +44 (0) 121 414 8254 or +44 (0)782 783 2312. For out-of-hours enquiries, please call +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

Notes to Editors

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.