There's a lot of potential for super-efficient air conditioners as a strategy for regions facing increasingly high demand for energy.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Berkeley Lab says air conditioning efficiency can be improved by 20 to 40%, resulting in energy savings that are the equivalent of over 120 medium-size (500 MW) power plants by 2020 in the countries studied.
The study results could have a significant influence on energy efficiency strategies for countries struggling with increasing demand for power and providing enough generating capacity to deal with peak loads.
"The main significance of this study is that the estimated future electricity footprint for air conditioners is on par with or surpasses the electricity to be generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar. This implies that policies to promote more efficient air conditioning equipment should be pursued with a similar seriousness and concern," said Berkeley Lab scientist Nihar Shah, the report's lead author.
The study was done to support the Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial. The study involved Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
"The information collected in the study can be used by governments and utilities to design a variety of air conditioner efficiency improvement policies and programs," added Amol Phadke, a report co-author and deputy head of the lab's International Energy Studies Group.
The study is the foundation for a new strategy under development by the SAED initiative to meet the challenge of extensive demand for power from air conditioners in India, China and Brazil.