Energy demand for space cooling has more than tripled since 1990, making it the fastest-growing end use in buildings. Space cooling was responsible for emissions of about 1 GtCO2 and nearly 8.5% of total final electricity consumption in 2019.
While highly efficient AC units are currently available, most consumers purchase ones that are two to three times less efficient. To put cooling on track with the SDS, energy efficiency standards need to be implemented to improve AC energy performance more than 50% by 2030.
Together with improved building design, increased renewables integration and smart controls, this measure would cut space cooling energy use and emissions and limit the power capacity additions required to meet peak electricity demand.
Roughly 2 billion AC units are now in operation around the world, making space cooling the leading driver of electricity demand in buildings and of new capacity to meet peak power demand. Residential units – one for every five people – account for 68% of total air conditioners.
However, of the 35% of the world’s population living in countries where the average daily temperature is above 25°C, only 10% own an AC unit. Rising living standards, population growth, and more frequent and extreme heatwaves are expected to stimulate unprecedented cooling demand in the next decade.
The number of air conditioners installed could increase another two-thirds by 2030.