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Air conditioning efficiencies could double by 2040

Average air conditioning efficiencies could double by 2040, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The catch is that for this to be achieved, worldwide adoption of all best available technologies would need to take place.

The report, Energy Efficiency 2018, suggests there is considerable potential for the energy consumption attributed to air conditioning to be reduced.

Warmer temperatures, increasing population and economic growth has seen cooling energy use in buildings double since 2000, from 3.6 EJ to 7 EJ, making it the fastest growing end-use in buildings.

Without efficiency gains, the IEA says space cooling energy use would more than double between now and 2040.

The report incorporates an Efficient World Scenario (EWS) based on analysis from the IEA World Energy Outlook. This scenario examines the effect of countries embracing all the available cost-effective energy efficiency potential between now and 2040.

Total energy use in buildings could stay flat between now and 2040, according to the EWS, despite a 60 per cent growth in total building floor area. A major contribution could come from a doubling of average air conditioning energy efficiency.

In the EWS, energy efficiency for cooling offsets much of the climate, activity and structure impacts. This would limit cooling energy growth between now and 2040 to 19 per cent.

“The EWS could result in lower emissions in 2040 compared with today, despite a doubling in the size of global economy,” the report says.

Many countries have already implemented building energy codes and standards. Yet delivering the IEA’s Efficient World Scenario would require them to be made more stringent and expanded to cover new and existing buildings.

Minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for key equipment and appliances will also need to be strengthened and expanded in the countries where they are in operation, and introduced in those where they don’t exist.

The IEA says incentives should be used to encourage adoption of high-efficiency appliances and building retrofits. These can be complemented by improvements in the quality and availability of energy performance information and tools.

The IEA says that although the efficiency of available air conditioning technology has continued to improve, there are huge gaps between the best and worst performing.

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