Aim of policy commission is to raise cooling issues up the energy agenda’ says Lord Teverson. Birmingham Energy Institute seeks industry input on economic value of cooling?
Liberal Democrat climate change spokesman Lord Robin Teverson is to lead a cross-industry commission seeking to advance the cause of the cold chain.
The commission was launched along with the University of Birmingham’s Birmingham Energy Institute who released a report called Doing Cold Smarter.
The Institute has posed five questions for industry, thought leaders, government and the research community, the answers to which should illuminate the potential environmental, health and economic benefits of a Cold Economy, along with the scale of the potential opportunity for Britain, and any policy measures needed to secure it.
- What is the scale of the demand for cooling services up to 2030 and beyond in the UK and globally?
- What would be the environmental, economic and health impacts of a business as usual approach? What is the economic case for cold technologies – does it really make sense?
- What would be the full economic value to UK plc of developing a system-level strategy and associated clean cold technologies, including GDP, jobs, exports, and environmental and health impacts? Does the business case stack up?
- What are the industrial, R&D and skill requirements that the UK requires to become a global leader in the development of new products and services for the Cold Economy worldwide?
- Is cold sufficiently recognised and integrated into policy on energy, air quality, transport, exports and overseas aid, and if not, what changes should be introduced?
Writing on the Liberal Democrat website, Lord Teverson said: “There is one area that has been left out of our energy debate almost completely, and some estimate that it already accounts for up to 14 per cent of our energy usage. What is it? It is ‘cold’.”
The commission promises to promote the importance of the contribution of cooling and of refrigeration technology to improving the cold chain, both in the UK, where the issue is food wastage and in the developing world, where the issues are around livelihoods.
Lord Teverson said: “At a time when we rightly worry about the fuel poor in our society, we sometimes forget that with temperatures rising and with it the demand for air conditioning, increased demand for chilled foods, imported ultra-cold liquefied gas, and low storage temperatures for medical supplies and similar sensitive products, the demand for cooling rather than heating is growing apace.”
He said: “The scandal is that some 30% of the world’s food production is grown but never consumed. In our developed world the culprit is waste from use-by dates, and throwing away what’s filled our fridges for too many weeks. But in developing countries it is because food is lost either due to spoiling by infestation, but just as importantly because it spoils before reaching its market. That’s due to a lack of cooling and temperature control.”
“As someone that was involved in refrigerated supply chains in my industrial career, and Lib Dem spokesperson in the Lords on energy and climate change, I was pleased to be asked by the University of Birmingham to chair a new commission they are setting up. It will look at the whole area of ‘cold’ in the energy mix and giving it the better profile it demands.”
Over the next six months the commission, made up of industrialists, academics, experts on international development, and energy professionals, will look at how to can make the cold chain far more efficient and climate friendly.
One of the key areas, Lord Teverson said, will be liquefied gas, something the University of Birmingham has been involved with in its work on cryogenic energy storage.
“We will be seeing how all the vast and wasted energy that derives from turning liquefied gas back into – well – gas, is captured and reused. We will be focusing on how we can help rural farmers in developing nations get their goods to market in a condition that boosts their income. Not least we will be looking to give UK industry a head start in this new world of increasing demand for cold.”
“The whole climate change agenda that we as Lib Dems champion means that we have to look not just at decarbonising our energy, but making its use as efficient as possible. Factoring in our need for cold as well as heat is going to be an increasingly important factor in that efficiency equation.”
The Birmingham Energy Institute stressed the importance of cooling to the fabric of society: “Without it, the supply of food, medicine and data would simply break down. Cold is also vital for many other applications including air conditioning, super-critical technologies and freezing and powdering materials for recycling and easy disposal. Yet cooling currently consumes large amounts of energy and causes a great deal of pollution.
“E4tech has estimated that more than 10% of Britain’s electricity goes to cooling, and we spend around £5.2 billion each year on energy for cold across the grid and transport.”
“India projects it needs to spend $15bn on cold china alone in the next five years. At the same time, however, vast amounts of cold are wasted, for example during the re-gasification of LNG at import terminals, which could potentially be recycled to reduce the cost and environmental impact of cooling in buildings, industry and vehicles.”
It is therefore vital, the Institute said was to include ‘cold’ in the planning of the future energy infrastructure.
“The next 10 years of development in the reconfiguration of the UK’s energy landscape and the rapid building out of the energy infrastructure in the emerging markets requires an accelerated adoption of a variety of energy technologies. Many of these technologies will be a radical departure from the traditional methodologies. As we move towards delivering greater energy efficiency through new technologies in more integrated energy systems, there is a clear need to join up not just heat and power and transport, but should this include cold as well? “
The Institute said this insight has stimulated new thinking aimed at creating business and environmental value from the efficient integration of cold into the wider energy system, now known as the ‘Cold Economy’.
“The Cold Economy is based on a systems analysis and covers many aspects of efficiency, but crucially involves the recycling of waste cold and ‘wrong time’ energy – such as excess wind power generated at night when demand is low - to provide, through novel forms of energy storage - low-carbon, zero-emission cooling and power.
According to the Institute, a joined-up Cold Economy could deliver:
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved local air quality;
- Increased overall system efficiency;
- Lower overall cost;
- New business and export opportunities and jobs for UK plc;
- Greater opportunities for integrating renewable energy technologies.
It believes that developing a Cold Economy would likely require:
- Systemic analysis that incorporates cold flows, including spatial and temporal balancing of dynamic needs;
- Greater recycling of waste energy, including waste cold from LNG regasification, to supply cooling;
- Using liquid air and other cryogens as energy vectors, to store and deliver cold and power;
- Developing more efficient technologies, materials and practices.
The full potential of the Cold Economy is only just beginning to emerge, it said: “Could it develop into a global market in clean cold technologies potentially worth many billions of pounds and creating a wealth of new job opportunities?”
“With new technologies and thought leadership in the field, there is a real opportunity for Britain to build an R&D conveyer belt from invention to global market. But turning the Cold Economy from idea into reality will depend on joined-up thinking and collaboration across industry, academia and government to develop, test and deploy novel solutions.”
In conclusion, the Institute calls for planning and investment to focus on a joined-up approach on three key areas: R&D; manufacturing and skills:-
· Develop integrated system level thinking and commercial solutions addressing identified market needs;
· Understand the technology roadmap (research and manufacturing) to support the accelerated delivery of novel technologies that underpin the development, deployment, effective integration and optimisation of cold technologies for industry, buildings and transport;
· Identify the apprenticeship and training needed to compliment the product pipeline, meeting in good time the needs of research, manufacturing, assembly, integration and after sales service.