Rising temperatures across Europe, coupled with an aging population and rapid urbanization, have not only made populations more vulnerable to heat, but have also increased the demand for cooling systems in buildings.
Between 1980 and 2020, heat waves even caused 77,000 to 129,000 deaths in the 32 member states of the European Economic Area, the European Environment Agency (EEA) estimates. This represents 86%-91% of the total number of fatalities due to climate-related extreme events.
And as heatwaves are expected to be more intense and frequent than ever before, the agency warns that the EU faces a crucial sustainability challenge: how to adapt its buildings in a way that guarantees the protection of citizens – and adheres to EU targets. on energy efficiency, energy independence and climate neutrality in a socially just way.
The need for new, locally oriented technologies can benefit startups
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While air conditioning is currently the dominant cooling strategy for commercial and residential buildings, it has two major drawbacks.
First, it results in the emission of CO2 and greenhouse gases (GHGs), especially hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The latter in particular has a global warming potential that is thousands or tens of thousands of times higher than that of CO2.
In addition, the increasing electricity consumption associated with the increasing use of air conditioning not only poses challenges to meet the EU targets to reduce dependence on foreign fossil fuels, but also means that this cooling system may not be affordable for low-income countries. .
Therefore, the EEA proposes the implementation of sustainable technologies that take into account the local context, including climate conditions, building types, urban density, demographics and power grid quality.
The most efficient technologies to avoid high energy demand include technologies that can reduce the cooling load by implementing passive cooling methods. Think of better insulation, optimal sun protection of glazed facades, radiation cooling and passive sun protection in the form of green roofs and walls.
When active cooling is required, the agency proposes solutions powered by renewable energy, as in the case of photovoltaic systems.
According to the EEA, not all of these options are currently easily accessible, providing a significant advantage for startups operating in the sustainability industry.
With the refrigeration market in Europe expected to grow by 24% by 2030companies that can develop technologies that respond to this growing demand while providing environmentally friendly solutions are in an enviable position to thrive.
Startups already active in the industry
Among the startups developing cooling systems while mitigating climate change is the Netherlands-based Triple solar energy is definitely one to note.
Using photovoltaic technology, the company invented the PVT heat pump panel. The front consists of solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity, while the rear is a thermal heat exchanger that provides the source energy for the special PVT heat pump.
The PVT panel extracts energy from the air and the sun. This means it can provide heat, cooling and electricity without using fossil fuels.
based in Poland Dynamic air cooling (DAC) is another promising example.
The startup has developed a new air conditioning and refrigeration technology that uses no synthetic HFC refrigerants and has no thermal or C02 emissions. In fact, it is designed for both residential and commercial applications.
The tech transforms warm air into cold air through the use of gas dynamic and thermodynamic processes.
The company claims it can lower the temperature to 60 degrees Celsius while being up to 50% cheaper compared to traditional air conditioning or refrigeration technology.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what is possible. Not only are a large number of European startups already active in this space, the market is expanding to a point where new entrants have a huge potential customer base.
With rising demand for refrigeration and pressure from the EU to meet its climate targets, the future looks bright for certain sustainable startups.