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Breakthrough, Climate-Friendly ACs: Winners of the Global Cooling Prize Announced

Manufacturing giants showcased breakthrough technologies with 5X less climate impact than conventional AC units and are planning to bring them to market by 2025.


New York, United States | New Delhi, India — April 29, 2021

A global coalition initiated by the Government of India, Mission Innovation, and RMI announced today the winners of the Global Cooling Prize, an international innovation competition to develop super-efficient and climate-friendly residential cooling solutions. Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai with partner Tsinghua University; and Daikin with partner Nikken Sekkei Ltd. emerged as the two winners among eight Finalists after shattering the perceived ceiling of performance. These companies have produced prototypes that have five times (5X) less climate impact than standard air conditioning units available in the market today. When scaled, such technologies can prevent 75 GT of CO2 -equivalent emissions cumulatively between now and 2050 and mitigate over 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century. The announcement of the winners can be viewed here.

Applauding the significance of this achievement, Tom Steyer, founder of NexGen America, stated: “When the Prize launched in 2018, many people, including cooling experts, believed that the 5X climate cooling criteria, as well as the Prizes’ supplementary criteria, were far too ambitious. But here we are, both team Daikin and partner Nikken Sekkei Ltd., and team Gree Electric Appliances Inc. of Zhuhai and partner Tsinghua University, have not only proven that a 5X technology is possible, but shown that the technology is here today. These technology breakthroughs, coupled with the ambitious commitments made in the Race to Zero, exemplify the incredible progress that can be made when innovators are mobilized, the right incentives for change are identified, and cross-sectoral stakeholders work together.

Both winning teams, Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai with partner Tsinghua University, and Daikin with partner Nikken Sekkei Ltd., achieved more than 5X reduction in climate impact against the baseline unit, meeting the primary criteria of the Prize. The Prize administrators also concluded that whilst both teams’ technologies would likely have an initial up-front cost on introduction to the market at two to three times more than the baseline units, lifecycle cost of ownership would be around half that of the baseline unit. This means consumers would experience a simple payback on the higher first cost after just over three years of operation. The administrators also noted that the technologies’ ability to better control the indoor environment would provide increased comfort.

Congratulating the winners of the competition, Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group said: “A market transformation opportunity for the cooling sector is now a reality, which can help combat the warming of our planet. As this incredible achievement begins to be recognized and applauded, it’s time for regulators to focus on the policies and standards that will help us bring these technologies to the markets.”

The other Finalist teams were led by some of the world’s largest air conditioner (AC) manufacturers and promising startups from India, China, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The teams (in alphabetical order) include Barocal Ltd.; Godrej and Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. with partner A.T.E; Kraton with partners Infosys, IIT Bombay, and Porus Labs; M2 Thermal Solutions; S&S Design Startup Solutions Pvt. Ltd.; and Transaera with partner Haier.

In November of 2019, the eight Finalists were awarded US$200,000 each to develop their prototypes and showcased a wide range of promising technologies, including smart hybrid designs of vapor-compression designs, evaporative cooling designs, and solid-state cooling technologies that use little or no global warming refrigerants.

In August of 2020, amidst the global pandemic, five of the eight Finalist teams successfully developed and delivered two working prototypes of their technology to the designated test locations in India. To demonstrate the performance and scalability of the Finalists’ solutions, one prototype from each team was installed and tested under a real-world setting at the Tata New Haven Bahadurgarh site near New Delhi. The second prototype was tested in a sequential manner under controlled conditions at CEPT University in Ahmedabad, India. Finally, the prototypes were sent to Danfoss’ National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL)-accredited lab in Chennai, India for an Indian Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (ISEER) test.

RMI Chief Executive Officer Jules Kortenhorst highlighted how collaboration across governments, industry, and civil society organizations, resulted in the success of the initiative. “What the Global Cooling Prize demonstrates is that collective effort can help combat our most critical and urgent problems,” explained Kortenhorst. “In this decisive decade, let this herald a new era of collaboration to spur innovations and the discovery of viable solutions in the other sectors that are yet to move towards low-carbon, efficient, and clean technologies. Now governments must support industry to bring these climate-friendly technologies to market.”

The Prize Finalists, which collectively produce well over 20% of the world’s residential room ACs, are determined to bring them to market within the next few years. Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai, a winner of the Prize, and Qingdao Haier Air Conditioner Gen Corp. Ltd., a partner of Finalist Transaera Inc., have announced their intention to join in the COP26 “Race to Zero Breakthrough” for the cooling sector.

Ms. Dong Mingzhu, chairperson and president of Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai, stated: “We are pleased that we were selected as a winner of the Prize and we are committed to delivering the Race to Zero Breakthrough for Cooling: to bring to market affordable residential AC units using this new cooling technology (which has 5X lower climate impact than today’s units) by 2025.”

Mr. KJ Jawa, MD & CEO Daikin India, Member of the Board & Regional General Manager, AC business, India and East Africa Daikin Industries Ltd., said “Daikin’s selection as a winner of the Global Cooling Prize is consistent with our “Environmental Vision 2050,” which provides a roadmap for the company to carbon neutrality by 2050. In line with that vision, Daikin is committed to the research and commercial development of technologies that reduce energy consumption and refrigerant impact for the benefit of global communities and the environment.”

The winners will share the prize purse of US$1 million equally.