Demand for Electricity to Be Driven by Demand for Air Conditioning

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Between now and 2050, global demand for air conditioners in buildings will rise from 1.6 billion to 5.6 billion. That means that 10 new AC units will be sold every second for the next 30 years.

The data were reported earlier this week by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in a study titled “The Future of Cooling.”

Demand for AC already accounts for about 20% of all electricity used in buildings around the world and about 10% of global electricity consumption. AC use is expected to be the second-largest source of global electricity demand growth after the industry sector, and the strongest driver for buildings by 2050.

Fewer than a third of all global households own an air conditioner today. More than 90% of households in the United States and Japan have AC compared to just 8% of the 2.8 billion people living in the hottest parts of the world.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol commented:

Growing electricity demand for air conditioning is one of the most critical blind spots in today’s energy debate. With rising incomes, air conditioner ownership will skyrocket, especially in the emerging world. While this will bring extra comfort and improve daily lives, it is essential that efficiency performance for ACs be prioritized. … Setting higher efficiency standards for cooling is one of the easiest steps governments can take to reduce the need for new power plants, and allow them at the same time to cut emissions and reduce costs.

According to the IEA report, effective policies can double average AC efficiency and reduce demand for cooling energy by 45% which in turn reduces the need for new power plants to meet peak power demand. More efficient ACs also cut in half carbon dioxide emissions from space cooling and that reduction can be improved by using cleaner power sources (wind and solar, for example, rather than coal and natural gas).