Cooling in 2021: Who Will Win the Global Cooling Prize?

The winning system will show policy makers and market shapers what’s possible for room air conditioning, says Iain Campbell of RMI.

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The Global Cooling Prize was launched in November 2018 “with the aim of spurring the development of a radically more efficient, climate-friendly residential cooling solution,” said its organizers. 

Those organizers include the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India; the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a U.S-based global research institute; and Mission Innovation, a global initiative of 24 countries and the European Union to accelerate global clean energy innovation. 

The evaluation of the eight finalists for the $1 million prize is entering the home stretch, with field testing completed in October, and lab testing in progress until January. The winner will be named at an online ceremony in March 2021.

The eight finalists are Godrej-Boyce, S&S Design Startup Solution Pvt. Ltd., Transeara, Kraton Corporation, M2 Thermal Solutions, Barocal Ltd, Gree and Daikin. Information on the eight prototypes and their design teams can be found on the Global Cooling Prize website.

Two of the finalists (Godrej-Boyce and S&S Design Startup Solution Pvt. Ltd.) are incorporating propane (R290) in their systems.  

Two others (Kraton Corporation and M2 Thermal Solutions) are employing water in their technologies. Barocal Ltd’s system utilizes an organic solid-state material (neopentylglycol), noted Campbell.

To find out about how the Global Cooling Prize will impact the RAC marketplace next year, Accelerate interviewed Iain Campbell, Senior Fellow at the U.S.-based RMI. 

//Accelerate: How do you think the announcement of the winner of the Global Cooling Prize will impact the global market for highly efficient RACs in 2021?

Iain Campbell: The current phase of the Global Cooling Prize is the “show me” phase where our finalist prototypes are tested under three testing protocols in order to demonstrate performance in relation to the prize threshold goal of a five-times lower climate impact as compared to the typical units being sold in the market today. 

The first testing phase, concurrent field testing conducted in a vacant mid-rise apartment building in India, was completed in the month of October and anonymized data snapshots of performance for each day indicate two prototypes consistently performing beyond the threshold target. 

This demonstration as to what is possible – including the announcement of the winner or winners of the prize – will allow policy makers and market shapers to know where the current ceiling of RAC performance is. It will allow them to set policy and prime markets in relation to the ceiling of what is possible and not just fixate in the floor of performance and current minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) where such standards exist.

The more immediate market opportunity, though, will come from the segment of the market that procures on the basis of life-cycle cost.  The combination of the prize’s climate impact and affordability criteria would deliver a technology that has a first cost no more than twice that of the typical unit, but would use at least one-quarter of the electricity. (The energy savings and low/no GWP refrigerant would together deliver five-times lower climate impact.) This would deliver cooling equivalent to that of the typical unit, but with approximately half the life-cycle cost. 

Demand aggregation and bulk procurement programs for government and institutions that are long-term owners/occupiers of their buildings are the most likely first movers for these solutions. Government programs and public-private partnerships such as those operated by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) in India, would be prime candidates to take this up, and are already a strong collaborator with the prize.

//Accelerate: What will the next steps be for the winner of the prize following the announcement? 

IC: The first immediate step would be to take receipt of the US$1 million check and enjoy the recognition of winning such a high profile, global prize and exceeding performance criteria that the majority of those we spoke to felt was not possible. Steps beyond this will depend on the profile of the finalist – whether they are a start-up and need to use their success in the prize to secure investment for product commercialization or whether they are an industry incumbent able to move all or just select components of their design into their product portfolio. We will be able to answer this more fully come March 2021.

//Accelerate: How will consumers, particularly in developing countries, be helped to purchase the prize-winning ACs?

IC: This will vary by country but our initial focus will be on India where through the good work of EESL we see an opportunity for a combination of utility subsidy/financing of the incremental first cost through a stipulated pay-as-you-save program. Involvement of the utility aligns well with the whole system impact of cooling, whereby cooling drives peak-load demand, requiring unprofitable utility investments in capacity that only operates through summer peaks.

//Accelerate: How will the other finalists be helped to market their systems?

IC: We have established an investor marketplace for those looking to invest in the cooling space, matching them up with start-ups and others seeking investment. Outside of that, we do not see our role as supporting individual participants after the conclusion of the prize. Rather we will focus on work to stimulate the demand for super-efficient and low-polluting equipment by influencing policy and demonstrating viable financing approaches, with a focus on developing-market needs.

This demonstration as to what is possible – including the announcement of the winner or winners of the prize – will allow policy makers and market shapers to know where the current ceiling of RAC performance is."
–    Iain Campbell, RMI

By Michael Garry

Dec 03, 2020, 01:24

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