Introducing the world’s most climate-friendly air conditioners

Global Cooling Prize
Global Cooling Prize
Clare Kelly
by Clare Kelly
30 April 2021

The Global Cooling Prize – an innovation competition focused on developing climate-friendly, residential cooling solutions and global access to affordable cooling – has announced its winners.

Manufacturing giants from across the world showcased their breakthrough air conditioning (AC) technologies to a global coalition, initiated by the Government of India, Mission Innovation, and RMI, with each manufacturer aiming to generate five times less climate impact than conventional AC units.

Global Cooling Prize
Global Cooling Prize

Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai with partner Tsinghua University; and Daikin with partner Nikken Sekkei Ltd. emerged as the two winners (among eight finalists) after shattering the perceived ceiling of performance.

The winning prototypes have five times less climate impact than standard air conditioning units available in the market today and when scaled, these new technologies can prevent 132 GT of CO2 equivalent emissions (cumulatively between now and 2050) and can mitigate over 0.5°C of global warming by the end of the century.

Global Cooling Prize : Winners announcement

Richard Branson, a supporter of the prize since its launch in 2018, attended the GCP award’s ceremony and announced the winning teams. Congratulating the winners, he said: “A market transformation opportunity for the cooling sector is now a reality, which can help combat the warming of our planet. As this incredible achievement begins to be recognised and applauded, it’s time for regulators to focus on the policies and standards that will help us bring these technologies to the markets.”

Both winning teams, Gree Electric Appliances Inc. of Zhuhai (with partner Tsinghua University), and Daikin (with partner Nikken Sekkei Ltd.), achieved more than five times reduction in climate impact against the baseline unit, meeting the primary criteria of the prize. Prize administrators also concluded that whilst both teams’ technologies would likely have an initial up-front cost on introduction to the market, the lifecycle cost of ownership would be around half that of the baseline unit. This means consumers would experience a simple payback on the higher first cost after just over three years of operation. The administrators also noted that the technologies' ability to better control the indoor environment would provide increased comfort.

Getty Images
Getty Images

RMI Chief Executive Officer, Jules Kortenhorst, highlighted how collaboration across governments, industry, and civil society organisations, resulted in the success of the initiative. “What the Global Cooling Prize demonstrates is that collective effort can help combat our most critical and urgent problems,” explained Kortenhorst. “In this decisive decade, let this herald a new era of collaboration to spur innovations and the discovery of viable solutions in the other sectors that are yet to move towards low-carbon, efficient, and clean technologies. Now governments must support industry to bring these climate-friendly technologies to market.”

The Prize Finalists, which collectively produce well over 20% of the world’s residential room ACs, are determined to bring them to market within the next few years. Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai, a winner of the Prize, and Qingdao Haier Air Conditioner Gen Corp. Ltd., a partner of Finalist Transaera Inc., have announced their intention to join in the COP26 “Race to Zero Breakthrough” for the cooling sector.

Ms Dong Mingzhu, chairperson and president of Gree Electric Appliances, Inc. of Zhuhai, stated: “We are pleased that we were selected as a winner of the Prize and we are committed to delivering the Race to Zero Breakthrough for Cooling: to bring to market affordable residential AC units using this new cooling technology (which has 5X lower climate impact than today’s units) by 2025.”

Virgin Unite extends a huge congratulations to all teams who participated in the competition and to GCP, RMI, and everyone who is working so hard to make this dream become a reality.