Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy
Photo credit: Annie Spratt
The Global Cooling Prize is a global competition to spur development of a radically more energy efficient cooling technology. The Prize will attract talent drawn from across sectors, and across the world, to the task of designing a room air conditioner for a typical tropical or sub-tropical home that consumes five times (5x) less grid-supplied electricity, per unit of cooling, than a typical unit in operation today. The winning solution will also need to operate within predefined constraints on refrigerant type, materials, water consumption, full-load power consumption, and maintenance 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 (which would result in a simple payback period of less than three years).
Our planet is getting hotter. Already, 30 percent of the world’s population is exposed to potentially lethal heat conditions; by 2100, up to three-quarters could be at risk. The number of room air conditioners is expected to rise from 900 million units in service today to 2.5 billion units by 2050 (some analysts estimate even more). Developing countries will see a five-fold increase in demand over the same period.
When combined with the atmospheric impact of the refrigerants utilized by these systems, the energy consumption associated with mechanical cooling represents one of the single largest end-use risks to our climate. Room air conditioners alone could add up to 150 GT of CO2-equivalent emissions, cumulatively, between now and 2050; making it nearly impossible to keep global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the Paris climate goal.
This high-profile competition will be administered by RMI, Conservation X Labs, Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE), and CEPT University, with high-level leadership, guidance and support from the Department of Science and Technology, India and other major funders. The prize is part of Mission Innovation’s Affordable Heating and Cooling of Buildings Innovation Challenge.
Prizes often represent the best way to bridge the wide gap between commercially-available technologies and realizable potential. They democratize innovation, encourage new ideas, and disrupt markets, using the psychology of “gamification” to attract entrants.
The prize will be launched in November 2018 and will be open for a period of two years. At least $2 million in intermediate prize money will be awarded to support prototype development by shortlisted teams. 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 $1 million to support commercialization and scaling of their innovative technology.
We will drive incubation, commercialization, and ultimately mass adoption of the breakthrough technology, starting in India and expanding to countries like 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 (AMCs); effectively priming the market for the breakthrough technology.
We want to incentivize and achieve dramatic breakthroughs in cooling far beyond what policy has mandated, or what the industry have achieved to date, by administering a two year global competition that calls on innovators across the globe to design and test a residential cooling solution of the future that meets the 5x efficiency target along with other stringent technical and economic criteria. All shortlisted teams will receive financial and technical support from an ecosystem of experts towards prototyping and testing phases. These prototypes will be tested in both laboratory and real-world conditions in a heat-stressed city in India.
We have set aside USD $2M for this support. The team that invents the winning solution will be awarded a minimum of USD $1M, plus support to commercialize and scale this technology in developing country markets. Ultimately, we believe scaling this winning technology could help mitigate up to 1oC in global warming impact and provide access to affordable and climate-friendly comfort cooling to all without risking the future of our planet.