The University of Birmingham has launched a policy commission entitled ‘Doing Cold Smarter’ to investigate how the growing demand for ‘cold’ and cooling, which is required to address global challenges of hunger, disease and population growth, can be met without causing environmental ruin.

Thermal Energy at Birmingham Energy Institute

The provision of cold is a vital foundation of modern society - without it medicine, data and the supply and preservation of food would break down. Cooling is also energy intensive; estimates suggest that it consumes up to 14 per cent of Britain’s electricity and £5.2 billion each year is spent on energy for cold across the grid and transport. These figures will be significantly higher in warmer countries, while in rapidly developing nations such as China and India investment in cooling is starting to boom.

Economic opportunities

Compared to electricity, transport and heat, cold and cooling has received little attention in the international energy debate. However, the energy and environmental costs associated with the need to provide cold have become evident and are predicted to increase dramatically in the years to come.

The commission will research new ways of providing cold in a sustainable way, specifically through a system level approach, as well as exploring the economic opportunities this new clean cold industry could present.

Environmental impact

This policy commission will also investigate ways the UK could become a global leader in the development of new cold energy systems, the technical, economic, research and skills issues around ‘cold’ and the potential economic and environmental impacts.

Lord Teverson, Liberal Democrat Peer and Energy and Climate Change Spokesperson who chairs the commission, said: ‘Bringing together experts, policy makers and innovators around one table will enable us to work out how to tackle these issues sustainably and in the process provide much-needed manufacturing and engineering jobs for the UK.’

Visiting Professor of Cold and Power at the University, Toby Peters, who is leading the commission, said: ‘Cold is vital to the way we live our lives today and to address the challenges of tomorrow. But it is all too often overlooked. This commission will address that myopia and will focus attention on how we can meet problems such as feeding growing populations and distributing medicine, without causing environmental or societal damage.’

Professor Martin Freer, Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute, said: ‘It is abundantly clear the UK needs a joined up approach on heat energy, the management of which is an even greater challenge than electrical power. As such it is essential to develop an overarching understand of the cold end of the thermal spectrum and where the opportunities lie for a proper integrated energy system which properly includes demand for cooling and cold technologies.’