Growing populations and improving economies world-wide, especially in the developing world, are projected to lead to huge increases in global demand for space cooling, dehumidification, and refrigeration. This will make reaching global energy and climate goals extremely challenging. Therefore Annex 53 has been started with the objective to develop technology solutions for higher efficiency air-conditioning/refrigeration systems to help reduce projected energy consumption increases.
Van Baxter, a veteran when it comes to heat pump development
Van Baxter is a distinguished research and development engineer in Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA. He is also the Co-Operating Agent, along with Dr. Reinhard Radermacher of the University of Maryland, for Annex (project) 53 of the IEA-TCP on Heat Pumping Technologies that started in October 2018. His background has been in the field of building energy services equipment research (heat pumps, air-conditioners, domestic water heaters, etc.). As he has been in the business since the 70s, Van has been a part of the world-wide heat pump development effort with its gradual improvements and expanding capabilities. Today he has more of a role as a project manager. “We are looking at both advanced vapor compression technologies and dynamics for heat pumps and air-conditioners but are also starting to look at alternative techniques like thermal electric systems”, says Van.
The importance of Annex 53 – The demand is going to explode!
The future forecasts by IEA and other groups show that the world population is growing, in particular in warm regions like Afrika, India and Asia. “The population is growing rapidly, the standards of living are increasing, and they are all starting to want the same conveniences as we have. The demand for comfort cooling is going to explode in the near future”, explains Van. The same problem also applies to food refrigeration, cooling systems for food storage and transport. If we look at the matter from a waste perspective, we can see places in the world where half the crops are lost during transportation due to poor or no refrigeration. This problem is for instance seen in India where fruit grown in the northern regions is moved to markets in the warmer south.
Today we also face the problem of increased greenhouse gas emissions. “The growing cooling and refrigeration demand means that we must improve the efficiency on how these vital services are provided as we will see a huge stress on the energy systems”, says Van. The estimated growth is 3 or 4 times over the next 50 years absent any action to mitigate it. Something has to be done to get ahead of that curve. One of the answers in the near term is to promote rapid deployment of the best (aka most efficient) air conditioning and refrigeration equipment and systems available throughout the world. And many agencies are beginning to address this need.
But there must be a vigorous long-term strategy to develop newer technologies with increased efficiency. This includes continuing the record of improving vapor compression-based systems and equipment as these are likely to continue to be a big part of the solution in the future for many applications. However, with continuing concern over the environmental impacts of the refrigerants used in vapor compression systems R&D needs to be accelerated on non-traditional systems (e.g. thermoelectric, magnetocaloric, electrochemical compression, etc.). These non-traditional systems do not rely on fluorocarbon refrigerants and, thus, would be immune to impacts from possible future restrictions on traditional refrigerants. This advanced technology development is the primary focus of Annex 53.
With the current technology used, we will see huge increase in green house emission due to energy consumption.
Before closing, it is important to note that we must also focus on minimizing the local and global economic impacts. Van explains: “Success will depend on mitigating cost impacts of both deploying current “best” technologies and future “better” cooling and refrigeration technologies. Improved equipment and systems must be employed to meet the upcoming demand, but it also must be affordable for everyone”.