BERKELEY, Calif. — A new study has suggested the potential benefits from deploying super-efficient air conditioners could yield significant, untapped potential for air conditioner efficiency equivalent to 120 Rosenfelds in countries such as the U.S., Canada, Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, France, United Arab Emirates, and more by 2020.

The International Energy Studies group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), in collaboration with Navigant Consulting Inc. Europe, conducted the study.

This landmark finding may have a large impact on energy-efficiency strategies for countries such as India and China as they attempt to cope with high energy demand and the capacity required to address peak load.

“The main significance of this study is that the estimated future electricity footprint of air conditioners is on par with or surpasses the electricity to be generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar,” said Nihar Shah, lab scientist and lead author of the report. “This implies that policies to promote more efficient air conditioning equipment should be pursued with a similar seriousness and concern.”

The study was conducted in support of the Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment (SEAD) initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial, and found that air conditioning efficiency can be cost-effectively improved by 20-40 percent in most major economies.

“The information collected in the study can be used by governments and utilities to design a variety of air conditioner efficiency-improvement policies and programs,” said Amol Phadke, coauthor of the study and deputy leader of Berkeley Lab’s International Energy Studies Group.

The study is the basis for a new strategy in development by the SEAD initiative to address the rapidly growing electricity demand from air conditioners. In India, China, and Brazil alone, electricity demand to power room air conditioners is expected to equal the output of five Three Gorges Dams by 2020 — more than 500 TWh each year. Adoption of cost-effective efficiency levels would save more than 140 TWh per year by 2020.

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of State, and administered by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in support of the SEAD initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial.

Publication date: 5/13/2013

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