Starting a cooling revolution through the Global Cooling Prize
A growing international coalition is launching the Global Cooling Prize, a global competition to spur the development of a radically more energy-efficient cooling technology. The prize will attract talent from across sectors and around the world to design a cooling solution for an existing apartment home in a mid or high rise apartment building in dense urban environment that will have at least 5X less climate impact. This will be achieved through a combination of dramatically reduced consumption of grid-supplied electricity and use of lower global warming-potential refrigerant per unit of cooling than a typical RAC unit being sold in the market today.
The winning solution will also need to operate within predefined limitations on refrigerants, water, full-load power consumption, emissions, volumetric size, materials, and operational requirements. It will also need to be affordable to typical consumers, costing no more than twice the retail price of today’s standard units at assessed industrial scale (the incremental cost has a payback period of less than three years).
The prize was initiated by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI); the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India; and Mission Innovation, and is administered by RMI, Conservation X Labs, the Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE), and CEPT University.
Instead of finding a needle in a haystack, the Prize brings the needle to us
Prizes often represent the best way to bridge the wide gap between commercially available technologies and realizable potential. Prizes democratize innovation, encourage new ideas, and disrupt markets. We want to incentivize innovators from around the globe to solve the widespread cooling challenge and help to provide cooling to families throughout the world, without warming the planet.
The competition was launched in November 2018 and will be open for a period of two years. At least US$2 million in intermediate prize money will be awarded to support prototype development by Prize finalists. These prototypes will be tested for performance in both laboratory and real-world conditions in a heat-stressed city in India. The ultimate winner will be awarded at least US$1 million to support commercialization and scaling of its innovative technology.
The coalition will also drive and support incubation, commercialization, and ultimately mass adoption of the breakthrough technology, starting in India and expanding to countries such as China, Brazil, and Indonesia. In India, we have begun to establish a coalition of policymakers, manufacturers, financiers, and major buyers to line up potential investment, advance standards, and secure advance market commitments, effectively priming the market for scaling the breakthrough cooling technology.
The number of room air-conditioning units globally is expected to increase from about 1.2 billion units today to 4.5 billion units by 2050 as a result of increasing climate temperatures. Therefore, the world must act now to spur innovation within the comfort cooling sector and do so in a way that will not perpetuate the warming of our climate. Therefore, through the development of a room air-conditioning unit with 5X less climate impact, we expect to be able to mitigate up to 0.5°C of global warming by 2100. Furthermore, such a solution would be able to provide affordable access to cooling, which has become a critical necessity in many hot climates around the world. This type of technology has the potential to avoid up to 5,900 TWh/year in demand in 2050, equivalent to 2X the annual generation of electricity within the European Union.
The Global Cooling Challenge aims to achieve a win-win-win solution, transforming the global air-conditioning market and providing affordable access to billions of people around the world, all while avoiding contributing to runaway climate change.