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Eight countries could outstrip the US for air conditioning

USA: While the USA is currently by far the largest user of electricity for air conditioning, eight other countries have the potential to be far greater consumers in the future.

The results are found in a new paper by the Energy Institute at Haas, part of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, which ranks 219 countries and 1,692 cities based on what it calls “air conditioning potential”.

The United States, alone, for example, uses 400TWh of electricity annually for air conditioning, about 1.5% of all the electricity consumed on the planet, but the position is changing rapidly as more people around the world buy air conditioners.

The report finds that India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Brazil, Bangladesh, and the Philippines all have more air conditioning potential than the United States.

The new paper by Leo Biardeau, Lucas W Davis, Paul Gertler and Catherine Wolfram, published in Nature Sustainability, gives a worldwide ranking using daily data for 2009-2018 to calculate cooling degree days (CDDs) for a 5km by 5km grid of the world. 

Vast areas of the planet are exposed to 3,000+ and even 4,000+ CDDs annually. As a point of comparison from the United States, even sweltering Phoenix has only 2,700 CDDs annually, the report says. The highest CDDs on the planet are found along a horizontal band passing through Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Asia.

From this, average CDDs were calculated for countries and cities using population-weighted averages. Finally, the CDDs were multiplied by population to get a measure of the total CDD exposure in each country and city. 

India is at the top of the list with 28% of total global CDD exposure – 14x the total CDD exposure for the United States. Compared to the United States, India has 4x as many people and experiences an average of over 3x as many CDDs. The city of Mumbai, by itself, is said to have CDD exposure equal to 25% of the total CDD exposure for the entire United States. 

Eight countries have a greater total CDD exposure than the United States. Many of these have substantially smaller populations, but much warmer temperatures. For example, the Philippines has only one-third of the population but 4x the CDDs, so ranks above the United States.

Also, apart from the USA, all of the countries in the top ten have an annual GDP per capita under US$10,000. The report argues that as household incomes continue to rise across the world, we can expect these countries to adopt air conditioning in large volumes.

Further information here.

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