The Future of Cooling: Implications for Energy and the Environment

The demand for space cooling in buildings is expected to grow exponentially in the coming decades. It will provide millions of citizens a better quality of life, comfort and even higher labour productivity. At the same time, if not well anticipated, it could also jeopardise the achievement of our climate goals.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) report on cooling is revealing. In 2016, the global electricity use for space cooling amounted to 1954 TWh, the equivalent to all the energy used for aviation worldwide. This number will triple by 2050, mainly because of rising incomes and population, thereby putting a heavy burden on the electricity grid.

Best-in-class existing technology can turn this threat into a growth opportunity. The IEA shows that the adoption of minimum energy performance standards on cooling equipment can realistically halve the energy needs for space cooling. Efficient building design, a system approach and renewables can lead to even more benefits. But is the regulatory framework fit for the challenge and ensuring that investments are made in sustainable cooling systems?

EURACTIV organised a stakeholder forum to discuss the growing importance of space cooling for energy policy.

Questions debated included:

  • What does the growth of space cooling demand mean for the energy system and the environment?
  • What are the solutions and technologies available to allow people to benefit from a better quality of life, and yet keep us on a sustainable track?
  • Are policies fit for purpose? Do we have the right regulatory framework to unleash the potential of these new technologies and solutions?

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