Air conditioning is a major energy and environmental problem. Bill Gates has set out to fix it

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Air conditioning has a huge problem and, in fact, this problem is going to lead one of the great battles of the first half of the century: while state regulations emerge to limit it because of its “enormous” climate impact, trends say that the number of machines and the energy we dedicate to air conditioning will not stop growing in the coming decades.

Bill Gates knows that a good part of the energy transition is played out there (in the thermal comfort of the population) and, for this reason, he is trying to solve it.

live without heat. Despite how controversial everything is that surrounds the regulation of air conditioning, the truth is that in 2021 (the last one on which I have found data) Spaniards with air conditioning at home did not reach 40%. This is interesting because it shows how limited the global reach of massive air conditioning systems is and puts into perspective the idea that, with that reach, represents 4% of emissions greenhouse.

But the world is heating up and reports from institutions like The International Energy Agency (IEA) point out that the use of energy for cooling in buildings has doubled since 2000 and that, by 2050, the world will go from 3,600 million refrigeration units in use to 14,000 million. The conclusion is clear: the world is hot and wants to live without it (at all costs).

Hooked on air conditioning: air conditioning is changing the world, but it leaves us more defenseless against the heat

“A Brutal Race”. That is precisely what has made many governments launch initiatives to drastically reduce the gases hidden in refrigerators and air conditioners. The European Union approved its own regulation in 2014 and looks for a reduction of “78%”. That, like said the CSIC specialist, Teresa Cuerdo, has triggered “a brutal race to find the most efficient way to air-condition buildings and reduce emissions”. With uneven results, it should be said.

What does Bill Gates paint in all this? Well, the North American tycoon, through his fund Breahtrough Energy dedicated to accelerating energy innovation, has just invest 20 million euros in one of the most promising start-ups in creating air conditioners with less climate impact: Blue Frontier.

Compared to traditional chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (which were harmful to the ozone layer) and current alternatives that have a greater climate impact, Blue Frontier is working on a design that uses a salt solution as a liquid desiccant for cooling. This allows you not only to use up to a fifth less of the problematic substances, but also to reduce your energy bill by between 50 and 90%.

Will we be able to beat the heat?. I am not sure if Blue Frontier has found the key to reduce the enormous climatic problems of air conditioning, what I do know is that the sector does not stop moving and, in recent years, innovation has been brutal. Many experts point out that these types of approaches are almost magical thinking (“technological solutionism“); however, and we know a lot about this in Xataka, without being the absolute panacea, there is nothing more powerful in the world than a technology whose time has come.

Air conditioning has a huge problem and, in fact, this problem is going to lead one of the great battles…

Air conditioning has a huge problem and, in fact, this problem is going to lead one of the great battles…

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