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Branson backs Global Cooling Prize

Famous entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has called on fellow innovators around the world to enter a new competition to develop more sustainable cooling technology.

The Global Cooling Prize is a worldwide initiative created by the Rocky Mountain Institute to spur the development of radically more energy-efficient cooling technology. And today in New Delhi, India, applications for the prize were officially declared open.

The goal is to incentivise development of a residential cooling solution that will have at least five times less climate impact than today’s standard RAC units. This technology could prevent up to 100 gigatonnes of CO2 emissions by 2050, and help mitigate up to 0.5˚C of global warming by 2100, while enhancing living standards for people in developing countries around the globe.

Use of room air conditioning is set to rise dramatically, especially in developing countries such as India, China, Brazil and Indonesia. The Rocky Mountain Institute estimates that 3.3 billion room AC units will be installed in the world between now and 2050. It is hoped that better cooling technology could counter-balance the resulting increase in overall energy use and emissions.

“With every challenge there is an opportunity, and that’s why I’m excited by the global cooling challenge,” says Branson. “There are millions of bright minds that I believe will bring about a solution to our cooling challenge.”

The competition will be open for two years. At least US$2 million in intermediate prize money will be awarded to support prototype development by shortlisted teams. These prototypes will be tested for performance in both laboratory and real-world conditions in a heat-stressed city in India. The ultimate winner will be awarded at least US$1 million to support commercialisation and scaling of the technology.

The winning solution will need to operate within predefined constraints on materials, water consumption, full-load power consumption, and maintenance requirements. It will also need to be affordable to typical consumers, costing no more than twice the retail price of today’s standard units at assessed industrial scale (resulting in a payback period of 3–4 years).

The prize will be administered by Rocky Mountain Institute, Conservation X Labs, the Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy, and CEPT University, with high-level leadership, guidance, and support from the Indian government’s Department of Science and Technology and other major funders. The prize is part of Mission Innovation’s Affordable Heating and Cooling of Buildings Innovation Challenge.

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