The world is baking in extreme heat – causing a surge in demand for air conditioners and the electricity used to power them.
In Texas, every 1°C increase in the average daily temperature above 24°C drives a roughly 4% rise in electricity demand.
Fluctuations in demand due to high temperatures put stress on power systems. They raise the threat of electricity shortages, restrictions, blackouts and brownouts.
Often, grid operators need to bring older, inefficient and more polluting power plants online to cope with the spikes in demand.
Operators need to adopt new methods to ease these strains as heatwaves become more frequent and severe.
These can include allowing appliances and AC equipment to adjust their energy consumption based on real-time demand. This would help balance the grid during periods of peak intensity.
Consumers also deserve better information. In Thailand, for example, households with a budget of USD 350 can purchase a low-efficiency unit or one that is 50% more efficient for the same price.
Buying the more efficient unit could result in savings of up to USD 2 000 over its lifetime and cut electricity bills almost in half.
The good news is there are straightforward fixes.
Setting mandatory minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for cooling devices and improving labelling has proven incredibly effective.
Policies like this could double the average efficiency of air conditioners sold.
Keeping people cool is a necessity that can save tens of thousands of lives each year.
At the same time, finding ways to make cooling more energy efficient will result in lower energy bills, reduce carbon emissions and require less investment in new capacity for electricity systems.
Residential behaviour changes lead to a reduction in heating and cooling energy use by 2030
Part of Technology and innovation pathways for zero-carbon-ready buildings by 2030
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