Air_conditioning_energy_demand Global electricity demand growth from 2018 to 2050 by energy use category. Photo: Statista / IBT

According to the latest figures (2020), there are an estimated 1.9 billion air conditioning units in the world. These are mainly concentrated in the United States, China, Japan, and South Korea. This landscape is due to change dramatically over the next 30 years though. Projections by the International Energy Agency (IEA) predict an increase to 5.5 billion units globally by 2050.

While this is great for air conditioner manufacturers and the well being of those living in hot climates, the increased energy demand that this will cause is potentially a massive problem for the world. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the IEA warns that: "Growing demand for air conditioners is one of the most critical blind spots in today’s energy debate". He adds that an essential and relatively simple step is for governments to set higher efficiency standards for cooling. Energy demand due to air conditioning is expected to almost triple by 2050, reaching 6,205 TWh.

As this infographic shows, that growth equates to a massive 37 percent of all forecast growth in electricity demand over the period. The IEA forecasts that with policies in place that double average AC efficiency, the global demand could be just 3,407 TWh.