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☁️ "Unlocking Hyper-Efficient Cooling"

Catalyst with Shayle Kann

Photo by Mitchell Luo / Unsplash

Host: Lara Pierpoint
Guest: Jessy Rivest | VP, Head of Cleantech | Xerox PARC
Category: ☁️ Carbon Reduction

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[5:36] “McKinsey […] put out a report in 2020 on the impacts to human health of extreme heat and humidity and showed just how dangerous this is going to be. […] And there are a couple ways in which we need to work with it. One is ensuring that […] people in these ultra hot regions and ultra humid regions have some form of relief for the many hours a day when it will be too hot. And the second is to try to disrupt this vicious cycle that we have, because the reason that the globe is getting so hot is because of greenhouse gas emissions. And almost 4% of those greenhouse gas emissions are coming from air conditioning. So it's kind of a vicious cycle of, the more air conditioning you use, the more greenhouse gasses you emit, and the warmer the climate gets, so the more air conditioning you need to use.”

[6:56] “We know that cooling will at least triple in energy consumption between now and 2050. So we're looking at a very serious […] absolute increase of emissions coming from cooling.”

[7:47] “There are three major components [of cooling that contribute to emissions]. One is having to do with the manufacturing and transport of those, sort of the embodied emissions. And that's about 5% of the emissions that we see coming from air conditioners. There's another 35% that comes from refrigerant gasses. So these refrigerant gasses are really critical to how air conditioners today work. And they're also very potent greenhouse gasses. There's a tiny bit of leakage over the lifetime of the device. There's another amount of leakage that happens at the end of the device. And in whole that ends up being 35% of the emissions of the air conditioner coming from those refrigerant gasses. And the balance 60% is coming from electricity consumption and the CO2 emissions associated with that.”

[11:11] “The colder it gets, […] the less moisture [air] can hold. So what air conditioners do today, in a nice commercial building in the US, is they cool air from 90 degrees down to 50 degrees Fahrenheit to get it really, really dry. And then they heat it back up to 70 degrees to make it a comfortable temperature. So the first step was wringing out the humidity, getting it down to 50 degrees. And the second step was making it actually a comfortable temperature for humans, which […] is a very energy intensive way of doing that. And if you could separate out the two jobs that the air conditioner needs to do humidity management and temperature management, you could use optimized systems for each of those.

[12:50] “Humidity is using on average a little bit more than half of the electricity of our air conditioner. So it matters. And these really ought to be optimized in separate ways. The air conditioner was invented more than a century ago, and has been pretty nicely optimized for changing the temperature and really poorly optimized for changing the humidity.”

[20:14] “What's happening in the legislative world is that there are starting to be some requirements around what natural gas burning products get sold. So for example, in California in 2035, you will not be able to buy a natural gas fired furnace. And this means that people will need to be switching to an electric heat pump. […] And what I think is really interesting about all these heat pumps coming online for heating purposes to replace natural gas, is that this disrupts the sales cycle of air conditioners as well as a side benefit. So now you have air conditioners, which would last for 10-15 years. […] But because they have to replace their furnace anyway, they can buy a two way heat pump, which enables you to pump heat in both directions, it can be your cooler and your heater. And now they replaced an air conditioner that was a very intensive greenhouse gas emitter with something that's much more efficient out of cycle.”

[32:28] “A company like Sunrun really changed the game in rooftop photovoltaics by saying, not everybody can afford to purchase outright a solar system for their roof. […] So what we could do instead is to install it for them and we, […] Sunrun, own this rooftop PV system and we sell the customer the electricity that they're getting from the PV system that we own. Cooling is a little bit trickier. People are used to paying for electricity, people are not used to paying for cooling per degree of cooling used in the same way they're used to paying for electricity per kilowatt hour of electricity used. And so cooling as a service needs to bring in the utility bill. And you see the reduction in the utility bill, the energy savings, along with the capital expense of the air conditioner, which is depreciated over some number of years. So it's more parties that you might need to bring into understanding what the net value is.”

[37:14] “Around 4% of greenhouse gas emissions [are caused by] air conditioners globally. […] It's close to twice as many emissions as come from the entire aviation industry. So this is a really big chunk comprehended in a single device. And if that single device type, an air conditioner, can be made more efficient, that's a big deal. […] So when offsets get expensive enough to motivate people to […] go into their energy efficiency, what they'll find is that a really large chunk of their emissions are coming from air conditioners. And maybe you will see out of cycle replacements of air conditioning units and other things. We saw out of cycle replacement of lightbulbs pretty quickly. So when you start to see people making those decisions, then we've reached a tipping point.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify | Google
🕰️ 50 min | 🗓️ 03/03/2022
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