Meeting global cooling demand with photovoltaics during the 21st century†
Space conditioning, and cooling in particular, is a key factor in human productivity and well-being across the globe. During the 21st century, global cooling demand is expected to grow significantly due to the increase in wealth and population in sunny nations across the globe and the advance of global warming. The same locations that see high demand for cooling are also ideal for electricity generation via photovoltaics (PV). Despite the apparent synergy between cooling demand and PV generation, the potential of the cooling sector to sustain PV generation has not been assessed on a global scale. Here, we perform a global assessment of increased PV electricity adoption enabled by the residential cooling sector during the 21st century. Already today, utilizing PV production for cooling could facilitate an additional installed PV capacity of approximately 540 GW, more than the global PV capacity of today. Using established scenarios of population and income growth, as well as accounting for future global warming, we further project that the global residential cooling sector could sustain an added PV capacity between 20–200 GW each year for most of the 21st century, on par with the current global manufacturing capacity of 100 GW. Furthermore, we find that without storage, PV could directly power approximately 50% of cooling demand, and that this fraction is set to increase from 49% to 56% during the 21st century, as cooling demand grows in locations where PV and cooling have a higher synergy. With this geographic shift in demand, the potential of distributed storage also grows. We simulate that with a 1 m3 water-based latent thermal storage per household, the fraction of cooling demand met with PV would increase from 55% to 70% during the century. These results show that the synergy between cooling and PV is notable and could significantly accelerate the growth of the global PV industry.