Reducing cooling-related electricity demand with energy efficiency (SDG7.3)
- Meeting cooling needs with efficient technologies mitigates the increase in energy demand. Under BAU efficiency, adoption of compatible  cooling appliances in households at medium and low access to cooling risk in high-impact countries could potentially require over 240 TWh of annual electricity demand in 2030.
- Efficient cooling appliances would be compatible with 16 percent more households, but more than offset the associated increase in electricity demand thanks to efficiency gains.
- Passive and efficient building strategies meet thermal comfort needs with minimum electricity use and energy burden for households with low income and low electricity supply.
In countries where the penetration of cooling appliances is expected to grow, closing the cooling access gap may require a substantial increase in future energy demand. If not proactively considered in electrification and energy transition planning, this additional demand risks hindering just and equitable clean energy transitions and the achievement of SDG7.
Previous studies have estimated that providing space cooling to the 1.8–4.1 billion people exposed to heat stress annually could lead to an increase in energy requirements of 786 TWh/year, concentrated primarily in India, South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and with AC as the main driver. This is more than 10 times the estimated energy needed to supply this group with the basic services at a Tier 2 level of electricity services.  Today, the efficiency of the majority of AC units purchased by consumers is two or three times lower than that of the best-available technologies, showing ample opportunities to raise the ambition of efficiency standards. 
In 2030, if all 919 million compatible cooling appliances under the BAU scenario are adopted, they could lead to over 240 TWh of annual electricity demand in households at medium and low access to cooling risk (Figure 5) – almost equivalent to the combined electricity demand of Algeria, Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Nigeria and Peru in 2019.
Domestic refrigerator-freezers would account for almost 48 percent of this demand, due to the combination of relative higher energy intensity (compared to fans) and compatibility (compared to air conditioners). For refrigerator-freezers and air conditioners, proactive performance standards could increase the number of compatible appliances for households at risk by 16 percent — to almost 1.07 billion — but almost entirely offset associated increase in electricity demand thanks to efficiency gains. In comparison, if the same number of appliances had BAU efficiency, annual demand would be 67 TWh higher (this is indicated as avoided demand in Figure 5).
In the case of ceiling and portable fans, energy efficiency standards would instead deliver an absolute decrease in the potential energy demand, from 62.5 to 55.7 TWh annually. Over 67 percent of the potential energy demand would be concentrated in the top five high-impact countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India and Indonesia.
Figure 5. Estimated annual electricity demand from compatible cooling appliances in households at risk in 2030
A market shift to best-available cooling technologies in 2030 would reduce electricity demand from all appliances in absolute terms compared to BAU, despite a 19 percent growth in the number of appliances compatible with electricity service available to households at risk. However, similar levels of demand mitigation could also be achieved with interventions targeting thermal comfort through improved building envelopes and design.
A combination of passive and efficient building solutions plays a central role in cooling strategies that aim to meet growing thermal comfort needs while minimizing electricity use and associated GHG emissions. This is especially relevant considering that, in many high-impact countries, urbanization — and hence construction — is booming. In Africa, the residential building stock is projected to reach 50 billion square metres by 2050, more than twice its size in 2022.  Globally, building energy codes were in force in approximately 80 countries in 2021 but are often either still lacking or weakly implemented in emerging and developing markets with high cooling needs.
In high-impact countries, more stringent regulations for new and existing buildings targeting a 15–30 percent  reduction in the energy demand for space cooling in households at medium and low risk could save an additional 18–35 TWh of electricity demand in 2030.
Combined with efficient appliances, this could realize over 30 percent of the potential for energy savings achievable with BAT technologies and high-performance envelopes in net-zero-ready buildings (Figure 6).
Figure 6. Estimated annual electricity demand from compatible space cooling appliances in households at risk in 2030
Notes and references
 Cooling appliances include refrigerators-freezers, ceiling and portable fans and air conditioners. “Compatibility" is defined based on a comparison of average annual unit electricity consumption and assumed levels of electricity supply available to households with medium and low access to cooling risk. Learn more
 Mastrucci et al. (2019), Improving the SDG energy poverty targets: Residential cooling needs in the Global South. Energy Build. 186 (link)
 IEA (2022), Tracking Clean Energy Progress: Space Cooling (link)
 IEA (2022), Africa Energy Outlook (link)
 Based on: RMI, Solving the Global Cooling Challenge; IEA (2022), Southeast Asia Energy Outlook; IEA (2021), Net-Zero by 2050, and Mastrucci et al. (2019), Improving the SDG energy poverty targets: Residential cooling needs in the Global South. Energy Build. 186 (link)