It is not an uncommon sight to see people in Thailand donning thick jackets, shawls and even woolen socks when they are inside buildings, thanks to low air conditioning temperatures that leave occupants freezing despite the relentless heat outside.
Even during a cold spell like the one Bangkok is experiencing now, restaurants and bars insist on keeping the air-con to ridiculously low temperature.
Southeast Asia is facing a growing cooling crisis, but its people remain unaware of the threat that inefficient cooling technologies can pose to national development and the environment, finds a new whitepaper published today.
Freezing in the tropics: Asean’s air-con conundrum, commissioned by the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP) and produced by Eco-Business, explores the attitudes and awareness surrounding air-conditioning and its implications for sustainable development in Southeast Asia.
It reports that cooling technologies such as refrigeration and air-conditioning could account for 40 per cent of Southeast Asia’s electricity demand by 2040. This would generate significant amount of climate-change causing carbon emissions if left unchecked, particularly in Southeast Asia where coal is a major source of energy.
If Asean countries switched to energy efficient products for cooling, they can reduce electricity consumption by 100 TWH at a saving of US$12 billion annually.
This is the equivalent to the annual production of 50 coal power plants. Yet respondents in the region who took part in a survey for the whitepaper showed limited understanding of the impact of air-conditioning on the environment.
Almost half of the respondents voted for “increasing the development of solar plants” as the most important way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the region, rather than increasing the efficiency of air-conditioning units.
The paper also revealed that the general public has low awareness of the refrigerants used in air-conditioners and the impact it has on the environment. Over 45 per cent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement ‘People in my country are aware of the harm that air-conditioning refrigerants do to the environment’.
There is also widespread sentiment among Southeast Asian citizens that indoor temperatures of buildings are sometimes set too low, and this was especially the case in Singapore. About 68 per cent of respondents from the city-state indicated that they often encounter settings that are too cold.