For those living in hot climates, air conditioning has become a helpful necessity in fending off sweltering heats and staying cool. However, that energy-consuming pull could triple over the next 30 years, according to new research.
The International Energy Agency released a new study that shows the rapid rise of air conditioning systems around the globe. An estimated 1.6 billion buildings come equipped with air conditioning units, the study noted. That number is expected to be 5.6 billion by 2050.
That "amounts to 10 new ACs sold every second for the next 30 years," the IEA report explained.
"Growing electricity demand for air conditioning is one of the most critical blind spots in today's energy debate," Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director, said in a statement.
"With rising incomes, air conditioner ownership will skyrocket, especially in the emerging world. While this will bring extra comfort and improve daily lives, it is essential that efficiency performance for ACs be prioritized. Standards for the bulk of these new ACs are much lower than where they should be."
One of the biggest drains on the air conditioning pull could come from India, the IEA study explained. Currently, AC in India constitutes roughly 10 percent of India's entire electricity usage. However, the report pointed out that it could skyrocket to 45 percent AC usage by 2050 given the country's population trends and economic growth.
As global temperatures continue to climb so will the need for more people to stay cool despite stronger and often more extreme summer months. The IEA's solution: push for better and more efficient air conditioning units that pull less electricity to operate. There's already a global disparity between certain countries and their AC's efficiencies. The study noted that air conditioning units sold in Europe and Japan are often 25 percent more efficient than those units sold throughout the United States and China.
It doesn't just stop with technology, however. There has to be a national (possibly even international) push for standards on air conditioning. The study warned that "large investments in new power plants to meet peak power demand at night" are needed. Unfortunately for fans of solar power, solar photovoltaics won't cut it, according to the IEA.
"Setting higher efficiency standards for cooling is one of the easiest steps governments can take to reduce the need for new power plants, and allow them at the same time to cut emissions and reduce costs," Birol said.
These mandatory standards could slash energy costs in half. This could lead to roughly $2.9 trillion in savings in energy investments, fuel costs, and operating costs, according to the IEA's calculations.
While more and more people around the world are using air conditioning to stay cool, it's important to note that only 8 percent of the world's 2.8 billion people living in hot climates actually have indoor cooling. Maybe there's potential for those addicted to air conditioning in more affluent parts of the world to simply lay off the air conditioning like the other 92 percent of those dealing with harder conditions.