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Report accuses AC companies of failing to innovate

UK: A new report claims the leading air conditioning and fridge manufacturers are accused of failing to innovate or make the latest technology widely available.

The report is from UK-based CDP, a not-for-profit charity that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

CDP ranked 18 companies, including Daikin, Trane, Samsung, Panasonic and Electrolux, on the efficiency, emissions and low-carbon innovation of their cooling businesses. It found an overall failure to innovate or use up-to-date technology, with average 2.2% sales spent on R&D. This is well below the capital goods average of 3.5%, the report says.

Trane Technologies, LG Electronics and Mitsubishi Electric were found to lead the cooling sector on climate-related metrics with Chinese manufacturer Chigo and Indian company Blue Star lagging. 

The report, Playing it cool: Which cooling companies are ready for the low-carbon transition?, claims that most of the companies’ sustainable innovations only deliver incremental efficiency gains, pointing out that 60% of patents filed were focused on compressor design which is incremental in nature.

Product efficiencies also vary widely, analysis revealing a gap of 58% on average between minimum energy performance standards and best-available technologies for split ACs.

Looking forward, it claims that only four companies have set targets to reduce emissions throughout the value chain by 2050. Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric are targeting an 80% reduction, while Daikin Industries and Electrolux aim to achieve net-zero emissions. 

“It is striking to see how many companies scored poorly on climate-related opportunity metrics, showing that as a group there is little or no meaningful innovation,” said Carole Ferguson, CDP’s head of investor research. “This is backed up by financial metrics such as their R&D spend, patent filings and capex/sales ratios.”

Jess Brown, executive director at Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP) commented: “Cooling companies know they need to phase out and down super-polluting F-gases to comply with the Kigali Amendment. Simultaneously improving the energy efficiency of cooling technology presents an even bigger emissions reduction opportunity.  

“This report shines a light on the business leadership already underway but also shows that much more can be done by the world’s largest cooling companies if they are to make an appropriate, and much needed, contribution to tackling the climate crisis.”

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