Welcome to the April 2020 newsletter from our sister, the Oxford Martin School Programme on the Future of Cooling! If you like what you read, please do subscribe directly! Helen Gavin
How energy efficiency programmes can cut energy demand and emissions from air conditioners, and save billions of dollars
50 coal-fired power stations planned for construction in Indonesian could be avoided by the country rolling out energy efficient technology measures instead – with half the potential energy savings coming from efficient air conditioners.
Indonesia is planning to increase its energy capacity to meet future expected demand, by building 87 GW of additional power by 2030 according to researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Indonesia’s population is 273.5 million; approximately 3.5% of the world’s population, with a growing middle class estimated to be ~141 million. The increased demand for power is a result of rapid economic growth, industrialisation, fast urbanisation, the electrification of houses that previously were not connected to the grid, and an increasing use of domestic appliances and equipment, such as air conditioners, lighting, refrigerators and TVs.
Stop! Is it always necessary to build new power plants to meet future demand?
Not according to the analysis by these researchers. They identify energy efficiency technology strategies which, if adopted, could reduce electricity demand by 25 GW by 2030, equal to 35% of the peak electricity consumption predicted for that year. Not only would efficient technologies provide the same service, but they would also be much cheaper to run.
We’re not talking about very complicated technologies, simply LEDs, inverter air conditioners and increased refrigerator insulation. With sales of air conditioners growing at 7.5% every year in Indonesia, half the potential efficiency savings alone could come from these items.
Given the rapid increase in economic prosperity, many Indonesian households are now using powered appliances for the first time. So implementing policies to promote efficient products and eliminate inefficient ones would have far reaching, positive ramifications on a local and global scale, including minimising greenhouse gas gases, domestic fuel costs, and long-term energy infrastructure costs. The cost of saving energy is only 2-3 cents per kWh compared to the household electricity rate of 10-11 cents per kWh in Indonesia. As a result, minimum efficiency performance standards, could save Indonesia tens of billions of dollars in capital costs over the next decade and a half.
Similar conclusions were also found by the “Assessment of Climate and Development Benefits of Efficient and Climate-Friendly Cooling” published in 2020 by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
The report found that transitioning to high efficiency cooling equipment can more than double the climate benefits of the HFC phasedown in the near-term. This would be achieved by reducing emissions of CO2 and black carbon from the electricity and diesel used to run air conditioners and other cooling equipment. It will also provide significant economic, health, and development co-benefits.
Doubling the energy efficiency of stationary air conditioners by 2050 would reduce the need for 1,300 GW of generation capacity, the equivalent of all the coal-fired power generation capacity in China and India in 2018, and would almost halve annual electricity costs per capita for space cooling in 2050.
Reducing energy demand, by improving cooling efficiency and reducing the need for cooling by improving building and urban design, can reduce energy-related air pollutants and climate emissions, thereby contributing to improved public and ecosystem health.
Robust policies are needed to promote the best available technologies for efficient and climate-friendly cooling, and help achieve a more rapid transition to carbon free electricity.
Heat sensitive urban design – alternatives to air conditioning in keeping cities cool
Komali Yenneti and colleagues from the University of Melbourne, Australia have produced heat mitigation information for the built environment for architects, city planners, and local governments. Urban heat mitigation will to keep residents, buildings and communities cool while also promoting savings on energy, health and economic costs.
Writing with an Australian perspective, the report notes that Australian cities have become hubs of extreme summer temperatures, and can be up to 10°C higher in cities than rural surroundings due to the urban heat island effect. The frequent and long heatwaves are having serious impacts on energy consumption from air conditioners, public health, labour productivity and the economy.
The cooling strategies take the form of green infrastructure, including urban greenery, green roofs and walls, water-based technologies, cool roofs, and cool pavements.
Unlike traditional dark surfaces that absorb heat, roofs and pavements treated with cool materials such as white paint, elastomeric or other coatings and light-coloured aggregates, reflect light and heat back into the atmosphere, thus keeping buildings and surfaces cooler.
Water has been used for thousands of years for its cooling properties of evaporation: natural water bodies such as rivers and lakes, plus fountains and evaporative towers not only aid cooling but can also create attractive public spaces and offer recreational features. Screens, solar panels, trees and vegetation and green walls provide shading.
Adopting such climate-responsive urban design will help people and minimise the demand for cooling by reducing indoor and outdoor temperatures. The aim is to minimise powered air conditioners much as possible because, while they cool indoor spaces, they heat up surrounding outdoor spaces.
The chart shows the effects of different strategies to reduce temperatures. Individually, each mitigation strategy can reduce high temperatures in urban areas; significant temperature reductions can be seen water-based approaches, and in the combination of approaches involving vegetation. When used comprehensively across an urban area, the technologies can have a profound cooling effect and a host of other benefits.
News from America
HFC decision “a victory for our climate”
An US court decision has been hailed as a “a victory for our climate”. The US Court of Appeals has ruled that the country’s Environmental Protection Agency acted illegally in suspending the limits on the uses of certain HFCs with high global warming potential.
In 2015 EPA introduced plans to restrict high GWP refrigerants such as R404A, R134a, R407C and R410A. The EPA later allowed certain highly climate-polluting HFCs to be used for specific uses, including aerosol propellants, motor vehicle air conditioners, supermarket refrigeration systems, vending machines, and some insulating foams. The appeal court ruling has declared this later change to be illegal and restored the prohibition on switching from ozone depleting substances to HFCs in uses such as large refrigeration systems in supermarkets.
Following this court decision, as companies move away from ozone-depleting substances, they must now switch to alternatives safer than climate-polluting HFCs.
Clamp down on duty-busting refrigerant imports from India
Also in the USA, customs authorities are to clamp down on imports of HFC refrigerants from India that are thought to be circumventing existing antidumping duties on imports from China.
An anti-dumping duty is a tariff that a domestic government imposes on foreign imports that it believes are priced below fair market value. “Dumping” is the practice where a company exports a product at a price lower than what it would be in the home market.
The USA imposed anti-dumping duties in 2016 on HFC refrigerant blends R404A, R407A, R407C, R410A, and R507A from China, but not on their individual components.
The American HFC Coalition alleged that, since 2016, importers had begun to avoid these duties, by blending Chinese HFC components in third countries and in the United States.
As a result in April 2020, the US Department of Commerce announced an affirmative preliminary antidumping duty circumvention ruling. This ruling applies to exports of the refrigerant blends R404A, R407A, R407C, R410A, R507A from China that are processed in India using both Chinese and Indian components, and then exported to the United States. The applicable cash tariff for the HFCs will be 216.37%, and payments may be back dated.
Incentives fund for “natural” refrigerant projects
NASRC focuses on tackling the issues that prevent natural refrigerants being an attractive option for supermarkets and similar places in North American.
Natural refrigerants have significantly reduced climate impact compared to traditional fluorocarbon refrigerants and are considered “future-proof” refrigerant options. They include naturally occurring substances CO2, ammonia, water, air and hydrocarbons such as propane, isobutene and propene/propylene.
The Aggregated Incentives Program is needed to help accelerate the uptake of natural refrigerant technologies. Such technologies can be much more expensive which is a huge barrier to adoption. While grants or financial support is available, multiple funds are usually needed to offset the high upfront costs.
Under the AIP, retailers can submit a single application to NASRC. NASRC will then coordinate funding eligibility across multiple funding partners. Funds will be awarded based on reduction in direct greenhouse gas emissions from the refrigerant and other benefits, such as energy efficiency or water savings. The goal is to maximize the funding per application while simplifying the experience for the retailer.
Making multiple applications for funding takes time and effort for busy retailers and as a result they may not have the capacity or enthusiasm to invest in adopting natural refrigerant technologies. The AIP will therefore significantly streamline the application process for retailers and hopefully increase the deployment of these refrigerants.
News from the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program
The Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program’s (K-CEP) has issued its Year Three Report, setting out its activities including improving energy efficiency standards and labels, support for National Cooling Plans, and co-creating the Cool Coalition. Check out the graphic below and their report to find out more.
Access to energy is critical
Damilola Ogunbiyi, the CEO of the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) group, together with Riccardo Puliti of the World Bank have written how access to energy is critical in the fight against COVID-19 fight, and to power Africa’s recovery.
Energy services are key to preventing disease and fighting pandemics – from powering healthcare facilities, supplying clean water, to enabling IT services that connect people with knowledge and others while maintaining social distancing. Yet in in sub-Saharan Africa, only 28% of healthcare facilities benefit from reliable electricity , and only 43% of the population is electrified at all. This lack of access not only hinders effective healthcare measures but also the post-covid-19 recovery.
The shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic is having huge effects on supply and demand, and putting existing systems under pressure. For those with access to electricity, changes in revenue and income, could mean an inability to pay bills leading to disconnection at a time when electricity access is so critical.
At this moment therefore, energy access must be prioritised as it is fundamental to mitigating the impacts of the pandemic in Africa and is essential to subsequent recovery. These are the priorities:
- Ensuring energy access for health and sanitation services
- Focusing on the poorest and most vulnerable energy consumers
- Supporting utilities and essential electricity providers
- Promoting clean cooking solutions
- Building momentum for a better recovery
SEforALL has changed its focus to support the global COVID-19 response. It is working with mini-grid and solar home and off-grid companies, developers and supply chain to help ensure these enterprises continue to operate and expand. They are critical for rapidly deploying power to households and for health clinics with no access to grid electricity. The group’s ongoing work on Powering Healthcare is focusing on ensuring that the power needs of health facilities, compiling resources and news, and supporting collaboration between the energy and healthcare sectors to deliver power when and where it is needed.
Call for recognition of cooling as critical service
Organizations representing the cooling and heating industry have called on EU member states to recognise as critical, cooling, their services and manufacturing sites during the coronavirus crisis.
The cooling and heating sector perform essential roles such as the distribution of heat-sensitive medicines and medical devices; the transport, delivery and storage of fresh food; the operation of key facilities such as data centres; and the health and well-being of people with emergency air circulation, temperature regulation, continue cold chain services, and heating and cooling equipment.