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Kigali programme eyes ‘indirect emissions’ as crucial decarbonisation challenge

Research commissioned by the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Programme (K-CEP) warns of need for further innovation in how cooling functions are planned, financed and provided to cut energy demand

The potential introduction of district cooling systems in Paris and the development of pay-as-you-use cold stores in Africa are being cited as major examples of industry efforts to introduce more innovative and sustainable refrigeration that can limit overall energy use.

Dan Hamza-Goodacre, executive director of the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Programme (K-CEP), said that an anticipated surge in demand for cooling functions around the world would ramp up pressure on industry to address issues such as energy efficiency and decarbonisation in their operations.

He argued that any successful move towards industry sustainability would therefore require new financial models and government policy to support cooling demand in both developed and developing economies. This would include adoption of ‘cooling-as-a-service’ approaches.

Mr Hamza-Goodacre was speaking during a webinar held by the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) this month, which brought together a range of experts to consider the challenges and existing market barriers for more sustainable cooling.

He noted that there was concern across industry that there remained limited understanding among policy makers of the strategic importance cooling plays in industrial growth, healthcare, and sustainable development.

Mr Hamza-Goodacre, who also serves as senior director at the non-profit ClimateWorks organisation, said a particular challenge around realising lower carbon cooling would be to reduce indirect carbon emissions from the industry. This mainly related to industrial processes such as generating energy that is needed for refrigeration and other functions, he said.

These indirect emissions have been found in research commissioned by K-CEP to have the most significant environmental impact on carbon emissions from cooling.

The findings form part of research by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which was commissioned by K-CEP to get a clearer understanding of the scale and size of refrigeration demand, and the opportunities and challenges around realising further growth.

Mr Hamza-Goodacre said the findings identified that the industry was expected to grow to a value of about US$170bn by 2030. This, he said, reflected the massive significance the industry would have on business, health and overall wellbeing around the world.

A combination of factors such as urbanisation, climate change and further income growth in developing countries would serve as major drivers for continued expansion of market for cooling and refrigeration solutions. Beyond domestic needs, industrial and commercial demand for cooling was also expected to surge, driven by data centres.

’Cooling-as-a-service’ approach

The expansion of cooling-as-a-service approaches was highlighted by Mr Hamza-Goodacre as a particularly important focus for future industry innovation in order to ensure more viable cooling approaches. This would involve supporting lower income individuals and companies to be able to make use of cooling systems and stores, without having to cover upfront investment in their own high cost technical solutions.

Mr Hamza-Goodacre said that a focus was underway to create more commercially ready approaches to cooling as a service, often based on circular economy principles of limiting waste and material use in the cooling chain.

He cited the example of projects underway in Africa that allowed farmers and toher manufacturers to chill and store products in communal cooling hubs. These hubs could be pre-fabricated buildings that allowed producers to pay for cooling on the basis of individual use, as opposed to having to hire or build a permanent refrigeration functions for use all year round.

Major industry names, especially chiller and cooling manufacturers, were already looking at scaling up cooling-as-a-service approaches on a larger level as a reflection of the potential opportunity for pay-as-you-use models, according to K-CEP.

Mr Hamza-Goodacre said that developed economies were also trying to consider more innovative approaches to how cooling should be supplied, with Paris looking at opportunities to introduce district cooling.

This would look at creating a closed loop system that could ensure excess cooling was better managed and used in a wider number of buildings to meet demand.

Mr Hamza-Goodacre also noted that ongoing initiatives such as pushing industry to move to lower GWP refrigerant and building a reliance on renewable energy, would need to be backed and considered as part of a more holistic policy. This holistic approach would also need to include policy and strategies that can reduce overall thermal load of buildings through passive cooling measures and design, he argued.

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