Million Cool Roofs Challenge aims to spur community cooling innovation


Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) is among the supporters of the Million Cool Roofs Challenge, which was launched by the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP) at its annual conference in Kigali, Rwanda on January 31.

The Million Cool Roofs Challenge, the first of its kind global competition, aims to scale up deployment of solar-reflective “cool” roofs in developing countries that are facing rising temperatures. It will provide $2 million in grants to applicants with the most promising ideas and demonstrated success in bringing cool roof innovations to scale.

Besides SEforALL, supporting partners of the Challenge include the Global Cool Cities Alliance and Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre.

The Challenge is part of a broader effort to accelerate global action on cooling as well as the implementation of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which went into force on January 1, 2019. The Kigali Amendment, which has been ratified by nearly 70 countries, seeks to curb the use of super polluting HFC gases in cooling devices.

An estimated 1.1 billion people face significant risk from extreme heat every year and live without access to electricity for cooling, according to SEforALL report, Chilling Prospects: Providing Cooling for All, which was co-sponsored by K-CEP. Another 2.3 billion people can afford to purchase only the most inefficient models of air conditioning, which use HFC gases, and thus threaten to increase climate change.

The Challenge reflects recommendations made in the ​Chilling Prospects report to identify opportunities and solutions to overcome the challenge of providing access to affordable, sustainable cooling solutions for all, including the use of cool roofs.

“As the world grows dangerously warm, access to cooling is becoming the difference between life and death. This challenge will give local communities – often those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change - a practical, affordable and sustainable solution to keep their buildings cool,” said Rachel Kyte, CEO of SEforALL and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General. “We encourage international organizations, NGOs, city-level governments, and private businesses to apply.”

The Challenge is one of several initiatives that SEforALL is supporting to address the global need for closing cooling access gaps. SEforALL also announced at the K-CEP conference that it is establishing a Cooling for All Secretariat.

Cool roofs represent a key tool in delivering access to cooling in an affordable and sustainable way. The simple act of replacing a dark roof with a white one can reduce indoor temperatures 2-3 degrees Celsius. That may not seem like much, but 2-3 degrees can make all the difference in a heatwave. This helps reduce demand for air conditioning and lowers local ambient air temperatures when deployed on a large scale. By helping improve thermal comfort, cool roofs also help workers be more productive.

More highly reflective cool roofs and walls help support faster progress on the Paris Climate Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals and the Montreal Protocol.

The competition is primarily aimed at creating the conditions for the accelerated deployment of cool surfaces in countries with a large gap in access to cooling, while sending a clear signal to the market and policy makers that there is demand for global cool roof products.

We are thrilled to launch this challenge, which will spur innovative approaches to combat extreme heat by tapping into local businesses and communities throughout the developing world,” said Dan Hamza-Goodacre, Executive Director of K-CEP. “Ultimately, this competition is about improving quality of life through sustainable solutions and economic opportunity.”

The Challenge will award $1 million to the team that develops the best sustainable and transferable model for rapid deployment of cool roofs in developing countries. The team should have deployed one million square meters of new, effective and durable solar reflective coating and/or materials on roofs of regularly occupied buildings in an eligible developing country between August 2019 and December 1, 2020. Applicants are invited to apply to the challenge by May 20, 2019, when the 10 best proposals will be chosen, and each awarded a $100,000 ‘Boost Award’ to support them in reaching the final goal.

"Highly-reflective cool roofs are a unique, sustainable and economical solution that helps close the gap in access to cooling for billions of people in the developing world,” said Kurt Shickman, Executive Director of the Global Cool Cities Alliance. “This challenge is an unprecedented effort to speed lasting market transformations that are critical for community resiliency, particularly in regions of the world that are most vulnerable to the deadly impacts of a warming planet.”

Potential applicants are invited to register interest on the Challenge website at



Cooling for All