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University of Birmingham outlines global challenge of 'clean cold' pursuit

Harnessing the untapped economic and environmental potential of “waste cold” is among major opportunities of a more holistic strategy for global cooling

With cooling expected to be one of the fastest growing areas of demand for energy around the world, academics argue the refrigeration industry must look beyond traditional approaches to fuel and power by considering more integrated thinking to create a “cold economy”.

Professor Toby Peters from the University of Birmingham has said that this cold economy concept is less focused on individual technology, instead looking for new means to efficiently integrate cooling with waste and renewables policy.

This proposed holistic approach is intended to realise greener and cost efficient approaches to cooling and refrigeration.

“The cold economy is a new approach that applies a system-level analysis to recruit the vast untapped resources of waste cold, ‘free’ cold, waste heat, renewable heat, and ‘wrong time’ energy – such as wind or nuclear power produced at night when demand is low – to radically improve the efficiency of cooling, and reduce its environmental impact and cost,” said Professor Peters.

The University of Birmingham is scheduled to hold a clean cold congress next spring that will serve to try and bring together experts, financiers, politicians and industry stakeholders to coordinate new global approaches for planning cooling with a focus on sustainability.

The congress is expected to lead to a series of clean cold related events around the world - potentially in the Middle East or South Asia - to try and better share finance, policy and technical best practice from both richer and poorer nations.

Professor Peters said that realising ambitions to create a sustainable economy built around the concept of clean cold would require widespread reforms of existing markets for customer-focused devices, storage media and systems. Equal importance was put on training individuals across the market on better understanding the need for planning across a broader value chain rather than just in a specific sector.

He added, “It requires new business models, skills and end user engagement, including the whole of the community. Investor confidence is built upon reassurance that systems are reliable and will deliver the value expected by beneficiaries. None of this yet exists: and its lack is a critical gap in the clean cold innovation landscape.”

Finding methods to more rapidly embed these approaches into domestic and global cooling policy was highlighted by Professor Peters as a vital challenge moving forward. This was seen as particularly important to prevent potential investment in higher polluting conventional equipment.

“Get this right and ‘clean cooling’ has the potential to advance three internationally agreed goals simultaneously: the Paris Climate Agreement; the Sustainable Development Goals; and the Montreal Protocol’s Kigali Amendment,” said Professor Peters. “In other words, it could address poverty, reduce food loss, improve health, raise energy efficiency, manage our natural resources, support sustainable cities and communities, phase out refrigerants and combat climate change … concurrently.”

Read more on the potential opportunities of the cold economy and the anticipated barriers to doing so in the digital edition of this month’s RAC Magazine.

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