Donald Daw, air conditioning division director for Mitsubishi Electric, asks if the growth in comfort cooling in UK homes is in our best interests?
TOO hot? Then open a window.
That’s the message from Mitsubishi.
The company is questioning whether growth in comfort cooling in UK homes is in the best interest of consumers, the industry, the country and the environment.
According to Donald Daw, air conditioning divisional commercial director for Mitsubishi Electric, the growth of carbon generation in all areas has to be limited and controlled.
Eleven of the last 12 years (1995-2006) rank among the 12 warmest years for global surface temperatures since 1850.
A recent report by the United Nations - Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis - deemed it virtually certain there would be warmer and more frequent hot days and nights over most land areas.
At the same time, the Stern Report states that there is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change but, if no action is taken, greenhouse gases could reach double pre-industrial levels as early as 2035, virtually ensuring a global average temperature rise of more than 2OC.
The report also syas that the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year.
“The Stern Report has highlighted the catastrophic danger to businesses of ignoring climate change and we are responding to this by announcing our own 100-day plan which will review our operations and highlight ways in which we believe the industry can act to reduce CO2 emissions, rather than increase them,” explains Daw.
“As a major industry player, we want to grow and sustain our business as much as any other manufacturer but to do this without fundamental review of the sustainability of this approach is highly inappropriate and out of step with our core valves as a business,” he adds.
Mitsubishi Electric estimates that the splits and VRF air conditioning sector could account for up to 1.6million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year for cooling and this figure could increase to 2.4million tonnes of CO2 (even with increased efficiency) by 2016 if current behaviour isn’t changed.
With the UK government’s target of cutting CO2 emissions by at least 60% by 2050, Mitusbishi Electric considers voluntary reduction will be enforced through increased legislation and that this legislation will become more onerous as the scale of the issue emerges. The aviation sector is a prime example of how both public opinion and new legislation can be directed towards an industry that needs to justify its continued growth.
The air conditioning industry has largely remained outside the public’s gaze but any major increase in the use of air conditioning for cooling in the UK’s homes will push up CO2 emissions unnecessarily and may force government to act against the industry as a whole.
Many have been waiting for the UK domestic market to take off but Mitsubishi Electric does not believe that this should be allowed to happen without seriously considering the consequences and cites Southern Europe as an example of how domestic air conditioning is driving emissions to ever-higher levels.
The company estimates that through the active replacement of older equipment, appropriate maintenance measures, better informed equipment buying decisions and free cooling and hear recovery, a considerable saving of CO2 can be made every year. Indeed, Mitsubishi Electric predicts this could reach as much as 482.000 tonnes of CO2 a year in 10 years’ time.
“We are aware that some will question our motives but we simply believe it is time to start reviewing fundamental and engrained thinking about what is healthy for the industry’s future and develop new approaches,” says Daw.
Donald Daw: starting to challenge our own thinking
“We plan to back our words with action in June when we will announce our own plans for combating increased levels of CO2 after we have concluded our 100-day review.
“We believe air conditioning is a fact of life in the modern world and the commercial sector will continue to grow. But we also know that industry can deliver improved sustainable technology to meet the heating and cooling needs of the country,” he adds.
“We need to start by removing our industry’s obsession with domestic air conditioning and act responsibly by looking at what is actually needed rather than simply trying to drive up sales.”
The country needs an ambitious growth in housing but, at the same time, the building sector will have to respond to increased pressure from government to achieve zero carbon housing by 2016.
Daw also expects existing housing stock to become a key focus for policy makers with 75% of these properties still expected to be in use in 2050.
“Space heating and hot water account for more than 80% of each household’s CO2 output and this is where I believe the industry should focus and develop advanced heat pump technology which can challenge the 1.6million domestic gas boilers which are sold in the UK each year,” says Daw.
Mitsubishi Electric has developed heat pump boiler technology which delivers a 30% - 52% saving in CO2 emissions over even the most modern and efficient gas boiler.
“It sounds a little extreme but if every UK gas boiler sold was replaced by a heat pump boiler we could reduce emissions by 16,pmillion tonnes of CO2 by 2016,” he says.
The company recognises that domestic over-heating is an issue at certain times of the year and also accepts that air conditioning may be necessary in some homes, such as in inner city hot spots. However, until the industry has reviewed what the need is, the most sustainable way to cool is through ventilation and free cooling.
“Of course, we want a healthy and growing market but we realise that traditional heating and cooling has to be challenged.
“We’ve started to challenge our own thinking and we would encourage others to do the same,” he ended.