In 2018, cooling consumed about 2,000 terawatt-hours of power globally. In 2050, that would develop to six,200 TWh. The distinction, 4,200 TWh, is roughly the identical quantity of power your complete US electrical grid equipped in 2022. So if issues don’t change, we’ll must construct sufficient renewable power not solely to switch all of the fossil fuels nonetheless on the grid, but additionally to energy a metric boatload of air conditioners.
Sizzling off the press
The excellent news is that there’s a ton of room for enchancment in air-conditioning know-how.
I spoke about this with Ankit Kalanki, who not too long ago helped run a large competitors referred to as the World Cooling Prize. He’s additionally a supervisor in this system on carbon-free buildings on the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit power suppose tank.
The World Cooling Prize wrapped up in 2021 and awarded prize cash to groups from academia and business that got here up with higher methods to chill buildings. The goal was a cooling system that produced one-fifth the local weather impression of typical air conditioners whereas assembly a number of different standards.
There have been eight finalists with a variety of approaches, some bettering on present know-how and a few searching for fully new methods to do cooling.
The 2 profitable groups constructed higher variations of present air conditioners, that are referred to as vapor-compression techniques. By swapping out sure components for higher ones (simpler warmth exchangers, variable-speed compressors, and so forth), the groups have been in a position to provide you with a way more environment friendly model of the air conditioners that we all know and love right this moment.
However a number of of the opposite finalists have been seeking to combine up how we cool buildings. Whereas these didn’t attain the local weather goal or one of many different standards, all of them had “very fascinating, revolutionary approaches,” Kalanki says.