Breakthrough, Climate-Friendly ACs: Winners of the Global Cooling Prize Announced

·9-min read

Manufacturing giants showcased breakthrough technologies with 5X less climate impact than conventional AC units and are planning to bring them to market by 2025.

NEW YORK and NEW DELHI, April 30, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- A global coalition initiated by the Government of India, Mission Innovation, and RMI announced today the winners of the Global Cooling Prize, an international innovation competition to develop super-efficient and climate-friendly residential cooling solutions. Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai with partner Tsinghua University; and Daikin with partner Nikken Sekkei Ltd. emerged as the two winners among eight Finalists after shattering the perceived ceiling of performance. These companies have produced prototypes that have five times (5X) less climate impact than standard air conditioning units available in the market today. When scaled, such technologies can prevent 132 GT of CO2 -equivalent emissions cumulatively between now and 2050 and mitigate over 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century.

Congratulating the winners of the Prize, Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan highlighted the significance of the achievement, stating: 'This is an important development and aligns with the objectives of the India Cooling Action Plan that the Government of India officially released in 2019 to bolster our R&D efforts in global climate leadership. We are proud to achieve the outcome that requires far less operational energy, utilizes refrigerants with low or no ozone depletion potential and low global warming potential, and will also be cost-effective at scale.' Both winning teams, Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai with partner Tsinghua University, and Daikin with partner Nikken Sekkei Ltd., achieved more than 5X reduction in climate impact against the baseline unit, meeting the primary criteria of the Prize. The Prize administrators also concluded that whilst both teams' technologies would likely have an initial up-front cost on introduction to the market at two to three times more than the baseline units, lifecycle cost of ownership would be around half that of the baseline unit. This means consumers would experience a simple payback on the higher first cost after just over three years of operation. The administrators also noted that the technologies' ability to better control the indoor environment would provide increased comfort.

Congratulating the winners of the competition, Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group said: 'A market transformation opportunity for the cooling sector is now a reality, which can help combat the warming of our planet. As this incredible achievement begins to be recognized and applauded, it's time for regulators to focus on the policies and standards that will help us bring these technologies to the markets.' The other Finalist teams were led by some of the world's largest air conditioner (AC) manufacturers and promising startups from India, China, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The teams (in alphabetical order) include Barocal Ltd.; Godrej and Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. with partner A.T.E; Kraton with partners Infosys, IIT Bombay, and Porus Labs; M2 Thermal Solutions; S&S Design Startup Solutions Pvt. Ltd.; and Transaera with partner Haier.

In November of 2019, the eight Finalists were awarded US$200,000 each to develop their prototypes, and showcased a wide range of promising technologies, including smart hybrid designs of vapor-compression designs, evaporative cooling designs, and solid-state cooling technologies that use little or no global warming refrigerants.

In August of 2020, amidst the global pandemic, five of the eight Finalist teams successfully developed and delivered two working prototypes of their technology to the designated test locations in India. To demonstrate the performance and scalability of the Finalists' solutions, one prototype from each team was installed and tested under a real-world setting at the Tata New Haven Bahadurgarh site near New Delhi. The second prototype was tested in a sequential manner under controlled conditions at CEPT University in Ahmedabad, India. Finally, the prototypes were sent to Danfoss' National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL)-accredited lab in Chennai, India for an Indian Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (ISEER) test. [Details in the annexure].

RMI Chief Executive Officer Jules Kortenhorst highlighted how collaboration across governments, industry, and civil society organizations, resulted in the success of the initiative. 'What the Global Cooling Prize demonstrates is that collective effort can help combat our most critical and urgent problems,' explained Kortenhorst. 'In this decisive decade, let this herald a new era of collaboration to spur innovations and the discovery of viable solutions in the other sectors that are yet to move towards low-carbon, efficient, and clean technologies. Now governments must support industry to bring these climate friendly technologies to market.' The Prize Finalists, which collectively produce well over 20% of the world's residential room ACs, are determined to bring them to market within the next few years. Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai, a winner of the Prize, and Qingdao Haier Air Conditioner Gen Corp. Ltd., a partner of Finalist Transaera Inc., have announced their intention to join in the COP26 'Race to Zero Breakthrough' for the cooling sector.

Ms. Dong Mingzhu, chairperson and president of Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai, stated: 'We are pleased that we were selected as a winner of the Prize and we are committed to delivering the Race to Zero Breakthrough for Cooling: to bring to market affordable residential AC units using this new cooling technology (which has 5X lower climate impact than today's units) by 2025.' Mr. KJ Jawa, MD & CEO Daikin India, Member of the Board & Regional General Manager, AC business, India and East Africa Daikin Industries Ltd., said, 'Daikin's selection as a winner of the Global Cooling Prize is consistent with our 'Environmental Vision 2050,' which provides a roadmap for the company to carbon neutrality by 2050. In line with that vision, Daikin is committed to the research and commercial development of technologies that reduce energy consumption and refrigerant impact for the benefit of global communities and the environment.' The winners will share the prize purse of US$1 million equally.

Media Inquiries please contact: Vindhya Tripathi, Director of Communications, M: +919810537978, E: About RMI RMI is an independent nonprofit founded in 1982 that transforms global energy systems through market-driven solutions to align with a 1.5°C future and secure a clean, prosperous, zero-carbon future for all. We work in the world's most critical geographies and engage businesses, policymakers, communities, and NGOs to identify and scale energy system interventions that will cut greenhouse gas emissions at least 50 percent by 2030. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Oakland, California; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing.

More information on RMI can be found at or follow us on Twitter @RockyMtnInst.

Annexure Additional Quotes by Prize Supporters Nigel Topping UK's High-Level Climate Action Champion COP26 'Cooling accounts for approximately 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so we won't get to net zero emissions without climate friendly cooling, especially residential air conditioning. The success of the Prize will make a critical contribution on the pathway to net zero cooling. I congratulate the winning teams and welcome the commitment that Team Gree has made to help deliver the race to zero cooling breakthrough to bring 5X more climate friendly & affordable air conditioning units to the market by 2025.' Patrick Child Deputy Director-General, Research and Innovation, European Commission and Chair of Mission Innovation Steering Committee 'In the face of global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic or the existential threats of climate change, we can never have enough international cooperation; the Global Cooling Prize is a great example of this. We urgently need zero carbon cooling technologies that can work at scale, and this is a key goal of the Mission Innovation Challenge 7 on heating and cooling in buildings. Prizes like The Global Cooling Prize are one of the ways we can bring countries together like never before.' Background Information A global coalition led by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India; RMI—a leading global research institute; and Mission Innovation—a global initiative of 24 countries and the European Union to accelerate global clean energy innovation—launched the Global Cooling Prize in November 2018. The Prize's aim is to spur the development of a radically more efficient, climate-friendly residential cooling solution. The initiative is also supported by Conservation X Labs, Alliance for an Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE), CEPT University, and a coalition of over 30 leading international non-profit organizations.

Global Cooling Prize Winners and Technology Descriptions Country Organization Technology Type Japan/India Primary: Daikin Partner/s: Nikken Sekkei Ltd.

Advanced vapor compression technology with efficient dehumidification and integrated direct evaporative cooling, advanced controls, and ultra-low GWP refrigerant China Primary: Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai Partner/s: Tsinghua University Advanced vapor compression technology with efficient dehumidification and integrated direct evaporative cooling and solar PV, advanced controls, and low GWP refrigerant Prototype Testing Protocol The Testing Protocol consists of three different testing methods including the (i) field test, (ii) lab simulated year-round performance test, and (iii) Indian Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (ISEER) laboratory test.

To demonstrate the performance and scalability of the Finalists' solutions, one prototype from each team that participated in the field test was installed in an apartment building at the Tata New Haven Bahadurgarh site. For this field test, one prototype per team, along with two baseline units, were installed on separate floors of the 14-story apartment building and their performance was monitored for the full month of October under real-world conditions in India. Multiple of the Finalists' prototypes met or exceeded the climate criteria of the Prize throughout the 31 days of testing.

Following the field test, the prototypes were sent to the NABL-accredited lab of Danfoss in Chennai for an Indian Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (ISEER) test. The cooling capacity and power consumption were assessed under standard test conditions to determine an equivalent ISEER rating of the prototypes.

The second prototype delivered by Finalists to India that was not utilized for the field test underwent a full-year simulation-based performance lab test at the state-of-the-art testing facility at CEPT University in Ahmedabad, India. The prototypes were tested in the lab environment for a period of 10 days. For each of the 10 test days, a unique weather profile was then identified, which when aggregated with appropriate weighting factors, represents a full year of operation.

Following the testing phase of the Prize, the Technical Review Committee met to review the performance of each team's prototypes and determined the grand winners of the Prize.

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