Green Cooling Initiative
The technology behind Green Cooling
Green Cooling is based on two principals: using natural refrigerants in combination with highly energy-efficiency appliances and buildings. These two elements make Green Cooling the most environmentally-friendly choice to keep us and our planet cool.
Why natural refrigerants and energy efficiency
For refrigerants, conventional technologies mostly rely on F-gases, which are up to 4,000 times more damaging to the climate than CO2. For nearly all cooling appliances, there are energy-efficient technologies available that use natural refrigerants. They are less expensive and less harmful to the environment than synthetically produced F-gases.
Why natural refrigerants and energy efficiency?
The act of cooling causes both direct and indirect emissions. By using natural refrigerants in appliances with high energy efficiency, we can reduce both types of emissions significantly. Direct emissions arise when refrigerants are released. This can occur during normal operation due to leaks in pipes and components. Without proper recovery and recycling facilities, most direct emissions occur when the refrigerant is replaced in the process of regular maintenance or when a unit is dismantled (end-of-life emissions). Although the quantity of a refrigerant in small units is only in the range of grams to a few kilograms, the high GWP of these gases means that direct emissions account for about 1/3 of the total GHG emissions of the RAC sector.
Indirect emissions are related to the energy consumption of cooling appliances. They contribute the other 2/3 of the total emissions. These depend heavily on the source of the electricity and the amount of CO2 emitted during its production. Indirect emissions can be reduced by increasing the energy efficiency of a product or by decarbonising electricity generation.
See the boxes below for more information on the different components of Green Cooling.
In contrast to artificial refrigerants, such as CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs, natural refrigerants are substances that occur in nature. The "Natural 5" are CO2, ammonia, water, air and hydrocarbons, such as propane, isobutane and propene/propylene.
Natural refrigerants are climate-friendly, which means they have no or minimal global warming potential and zero ozone depletion potential. They are part of natural biogeochemical cycles and do not form persistent wastes in the atmosphere, water or biosphere.
In addition, they are relatively cheap because they are mass-produced for a wide range of uses and readily available if distribution structures are present. In some cases, natural refrigerants can also be sourced as by-products from other processes. Recycling or disposal after use in cooling systems is also easier than with CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs.
What’s hindering the widespread introduction of natural refrigerants?
In the past, when a group of environmentally harmful refrigerants was phased out, it always led to an increased use of refrigerants that were simply less harmful. This occurred with the switch from CFCs to HCFCs, and later to HFCs in industrialised countries. The same trend is currently visible in developing countries where HFCs are replacing HCFCs. However, it is fully possible to switch from ozone- and climate-depleting fluorinated substances to natural refrigerants in energy-efficient systems and applications in one single step. It is not necessary to extend the process over many small steps. There are, however, still some barriers to overcome when taking this step.
Those barriers include financing options (e.g. when converting production lines for cooling appliances), standards and regulations, as well as adequate training of technicians in the safe handling of natural refrigerants.
Over the next 30 years, 10 new air conditioners will be sold every second – and the trend is rising. Today, almost 17% of global electricity consumption is due to cooling and air conditioning.
Energy consumption in many developing countries is on the rise due to more industrial activity, but also due to increased use of appliances such as air conditioners, as well as domestic and industrial refrigeration. This puts a strain on the electricity grid especially during peak hours and can cause power outages. In addition, high power consumption is not only extremely harmful to the climate, but also very costly for consumers. The energy efficiency of an appliance depends on several factors such as the type of technology used, the refrigerant, the climatic conditions, as well as ambient temperatures where the appliance is installed and the design of the individual components. At the same time, it is important to use energy-efficient options in the construction of buildings and to base the electricity grid on renewable energies in order to ensure sustainable, environmentally friendly power generation.
Supporting efficiency measures financially or introducing laws that regulate the energy consumption of applications such as MEPS, labelling or appliance replacement schemes can be a cost-effective way for governments to avoid or postpone having to build new power stations and to balance increased use.
Energy-efficient applications can save the end user a lot of money over the lifetime of a device. Although sometimes the initial cost of efficient devices is higher than that of less efficient devices, the payback period for more efficient devices can be up to one year, depending on electricity costs. After this period, users save money. Many countries offer subsidies for efficient equipment or even replace old equipment to overcome the barrier of higher initial costs.
An energy efficient device therefore offers many benefits: it is not only cheaper for the consumer and protects the environment, but also contributes to the security of the energy supply for entire countries.