Spotlight on Cooling Appliances
Doubling the efficiency of new air conditioners and refrigerator-freezers by 2030 would make these important cooling appliances more affordable. CLASP adapted SEforALL’s analysis and estimated that these efficiency improvements would make air conditioners accessible to 123 million more people and refrigerators accessible to 262 million more people. In addition, these efficiency improvements would enable millions of consumers to save money on their electricity bills.
Research from SEforALL shows how increasing efficiency can expand access to high-impact appliances, particularly for vulnerable populations. The report, Chilling Prospect: Tracking Sustainable Cooling for All 2022, examines the impact of energy efficiency on access to cooling services. The report looks across 54 high-impact countries at lower-middle-income and middle-income households, which are deemed medium or low risk, respectively, of lacking access to cooling in 2030. Based on past research correlating income and electricity consumption, SEforALL forecasted the number of cooling appliances that could be compatible with the electricity consumption levels of these households under multiple scenarios in 2030. Refrigerator and air-conditioner ownership are sensitive to income; that is, households with higher incomes are more likely to own a refrigerator or air conditioner. It follows that if the cost of owning and operating these appliances were reduced, more households would be able to access them. Thus, increasing the energy efficiency of these appliances would result in increased access.
In the best available technology (BAT or high-efficiency) scenario, access to cooling is 19% higher than in the BAU scenario. Despite this expanded access, total electricity consumption is 32% lower than in the BAU scenario. The Figures below show how increased access and decreased electricity demand breaks out across the three cooling end uses: refrigerator-freezers, comfort fans, and air conditioners. 1
Figure 1: Access to cooling and total electricity demand in multiple scenarios
Figure 2: Access to cooling and total electricity demand in multiple scenarios
SEforALL forecasts 33 million additional air conditioners in 2030 in the BAT scenario, which is defined by an improvement in efficiency roughly equivalent to the efficiency doubling target recommended in this paper. Thus, we expect that achieving this target would enable at least 33 million households (123 million people) to obtain first access to air conditioning. These households would enjoy numerous benefits, among them improved indoor air quality and thermal comfort, improved health and well-being, and better protection from extreme heat. The Efficiency for Access Impact Assessment Framework for fans was used to calculate conservative estimates of some of these benefits; the results are reported in Table 6 of the report.2 (We were unable to identify a similar impact assessment framework for air conditioners so used the fans framework as a proxy.)
SEforALL forecasts 143 million additional refrigerators in 2030 in the BAT scenario, which is defined by a tripling in average efficiency from 430 kWh/year to 130 kWh/year. We expect that achieving the less-ambitious doubling target recommended in this paper (216 kWh/year) would enable at least 70 million households (half of 143 million households, 262 million people) to obtain first access to a refrigerator.
These households would enjoy numerous benefits, among them improved food security and nutrition, improved quality of life, and time savings.3
0. SEforALL, “Chilling Prospects.”
1. CLASP used the Efficiency for Access Impact Assessment Framework for refrigerators to quantify some of these benefits; the results are reported in Table 6 of the report. Efficiency for Access, “Off- and Weak-Grid Appliances Impact Assessment Framework,” 2022, https://efficiencyforaccess.org/publications/impact-assessment-framework.
2. Efficiency for Access.