This is evident from a report by the International Energy Agency. Air conditioners consume a lot of power, and if they are all turned on at the same time, it can overload electrical networks.
Two-thirds of the world’s households would have air conditioning by 2050, with China, India and Indonesia accounting for half of all appliances, according to the report. According to MIT Technology Review, hundreds of thousands of California homes have already suffered power outages as the area is plagued by a heat wave. Climate change makes air conditioning a huge challenge that is also difficult to solve from a technical point of view.
Need three times the energy
Air conditioners produce heat themselves when cooling a room, which can cause temperatures in cities to rise further. In addition, many devices leak dangerous greenhouse gases. And then they also consume a lot of power.
Without significant improvements to the appliances, the energy required for air conditioning consumption will triple by 2050, accounting for nearly a quarter of today’s total electricity consumption.
“The fact that most air conditioners work almost exactly the same as decades ago says a lot,” Vince Romanin told MIT Technology Review. Romanin is general manager at Treau, a start-up that is developing a new type of heat pump that should also be able to cool rooms.
He says there is a great need for something new, but not much progress has been made yet. Most of the progress in recent decades has taken place in areas such as solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles – there is a lot of public interest in this and so a lot of money goes into research and development.
But even if ways were to be found to cool homes and other buildings more efficiently, demand is likely to increase so much that countries will still have to expand and renew their electricity grids. This requires larger systems than have ever been made, and that should probably also be CO2 neutral. Such a problem cannot be solved with only economical air conditioners. Houses must be better insulated, energy consumption more spread out so that the peaks are tempered.