Rising impact of mobile air conditioning

Without further policy intervention, energy use from mobile air conditioning is set to triple by 2050. The stark warning is one of the highlights from a recently released report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) called Cooling on the Move.

Air conditioners in passenger cars, vans, buses and freight trucks are collectively known as mobile air conditioning, or MAC. Cooling on the Move explores the global energy consumption from MAC systems, along with the resulting greenhouse gas emissions from their energy consumption and leaking refrigerants.

“With no further policy action, energy use from mobile air conditioning may almost triple to over 5.7 million barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2050,” the report says. “At the same time, annual combined emissions from energy consumption and refrigerant leakage could more than triple to 1,300 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.”

MAC collectively consumes almost two million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Greenhouse gas emissions from MAC stand at about 420 million tonnes of COequivalent. This is more than 1 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissionsEnergy consumption is responsible for around 70 per cent of these emissions. Emissions from refrigerant leakage account for 30 per cent.

The report includes a review of the technical opportunities for improving MAC efficiency. This is complemented by a review of alternative refrigerants, and their potential impact on global warming. These two analyses are combined to develop a scenario of high efficiency and low global warming potential.

Cooling on the Move also explores the role government policy can play in supporting the development and installation of more efficient MAC systems.

“Policy will play a critical role in limiting growth in emissions from MAC,” according to Cooling on the Move. “MAC energy consumption could be included in existing fuel economy standards, expanded vehicle testing methods, and/or minimum performance standards for specific air conditioning components.”

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