Air Conditioning Demand Set to Increase Dramatically Over the Coming Decades

Global warming, coupled with the global rise in living standards in developing countries is causing the demand for air conditioning to rise just as rapidly. Global temperatures are expected to rise by 2 degrees, and non-OECD countries are expected to add at least 900 million new households. The result is that global energy demand will triple by 2050.


The global stock of air conditioning in buildings will have to grow to 5.6 billion in 2050, from 1.6 billion today, requiring new electricity capacity equal to the combined capacity of the United States, European Union, and Japan today. Today, air conditioning and electric fans only account for 10% of building electricity use, but this will rise dramatically by 2050, especially in the hottest regions of the world. In countries such as the United States and Japan, more than 90% of households have air conditioning, compared to just 8% of the 2.8 billion people living in the hottest parts of the world. A report found that Chinese demand currently occupies 39.7% of world demand. Air conditioning will be the second-largest source of global electricity demand, after industrial demand.


In order to conserve electricity, air conditioners will need to be as efficient as possible. “Growing electricity demand for air conditioning is one of the most critical blind spots in today’s energy debate,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the IEA. “With rising incomes, air conditioner ownership will skyrocket, especially in the emerging world. While this will bring extra comfort and improve daily lives, it is essential that efficiency performance for ACs be prioritized. Standards for the bulk of these new ACs are much lower than where they should be.” 

An IEA report titled “The Future of Cooling” predicts that in an efficient cooling scenario compatible with the goals of the Paris Agreement, the average energy efficiency of the stock of air conditioning worldwide could more than double.


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