The Virgin Group co-founder Richard Branson has put US $ 3 million towards the new competition, which will incentivise the production of more environmentally sound air-conditioners.
"The increase in energy consumption represents a massive risk to our climate goals," Branson said as he launched the Global Cooling Prize.
He also said he was hoping the award could "save the world from the disaster it's facing."
The prize comes on the back of a new report that the expansion of air-conditioning alone could cause a rise in global temperatures by half a degree by 2100.
– Richard Branson (@richardbranson) November 12, 2018
The Global Cooling Prize will incentivize innovation
The competition was jointly announced with the Government of India, the global clean energy initiative, the Innovation and non-profit organization of the Rocky Mountain Institute.
The prize's website notes that today's most advanced air-conditioning technology has only reached 14% of the theoretical efficiency and operates at least 8%.
The prize is to change that. It will require participation by companies to produce air-conditioning solutions that operate in five times less climate than the existing units and that can operate at no more than twice the cost.
Next year, the prize will award US $ 200,000 to 10 companies, facilitating the construction of prototypes. These prototypes will be tested in laboratories and apartments in India. The winner will receive at least US $ 1 million.
Iain Campbell, Managing Director at the Rocky Mountain Institute, also said that the market was not rewarding energy-efficient air-conditioning units and was driven by price-based competition.
Branson was optimistic that the market could be seen as a barrier to entry, as the air-conditioning industry could have been fixed and said the prize could counter the high cost of research and development in the field.
"If we can disrupt the airline industry, where a single Boeing 737 can cost $ 70 million, then I'm pretty sure we can do it with air conditioning," he said.
Every summer is getting hotter and it's important that all people have access to cooling. Have an innovation, can you help us? Apply for the Global Cooling Prize! https://t.co/oqzyopZVyQ pic.twitter.com/wxM2mOYZr4
– Erik Solheim (@ErikSolheim) November 12, 2018
The big picture: the number of air-conditioning units worldwide is expected to be soar
Air-conditioner usage is expected to rise to mitigate higher temperatures. A 2017 study forecast that up to 74% of all people could be exposed to deadly temperatures for at least 20 days a year by 2100.
India has a particularly sharp growth in the number of installed air-conditioning units and is projected to have 1 billion room air-conditioners by 2050.
The number of air-conditioning systems installed is expected to rise from around 1.2 billion currently to 4.5 billion by the midpoint of the century.
Header image credit: Kris Krüg