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Virgin founder and world-famous marketeer Richard Branson recently criticized the air conditioning industry, saying that air conditioning technology has not evolved much in the 100 years since it was discovered, also criticizing manufacturers for being “entrenched” and “complacent”.

Mt Branson believes there is still potential for innovation in an industry that is already worth around $100bn and could multiply by a factor of four in the next 30 years.

“As our planet warms, we need air conditioning more than ever to keep our people cool” he wrote in his Virgin Blog. “If we can trigger a major technology change, it could be the single biggest technology-based step we can take to arrest climate change”.

The reason Mr Branson got involved was the launch of the $3m Global Cooling Prize by the highly respected research body the Rocky Mountain Institute, which aims to provide funding for projects that can advance knowledge of cooling technologies.

The Institute and Mr Branson argue that cooling technology has only achieved 14% of its ‘theoretical’ energy efficiency, clearly ignoring many of the major technical breakthroughs our industry has achieved.

The air conditioning industry has been challenged to find ways to minimise the use and leakage of potentially harmful refrigerant gases – driven primarily by the F-Gas legislation in Europe – but have also managed to do this while continually improving energy performance. The challenge the industry is facing now is to make the best technology available to the widest possible market, which often comes down to what a customer can afford.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) 2018 report on energy efficiency showed that cooling energy use in buildings has already doubled since 2000 due to population growth and the surge in construction, but our industry has also been busy developing improved technology to mitigate the potential impact on the environment.

Daikin technology, for instance, is evolving fast and not just because of F-Gas regulations, but because we remain committed to the energy efficiency improvements enshrined in market drivers like the EU’s Ecodesign regulations and because we want to give end users the best possible performance.

Daikin Applied was the first to launch a new generation of high efficiency scroll chillers using R-32 refrigerant, which has allowed to achieve a 10% improvement in seasonal energy efficiency ratio compared with the equivalent equipment using R410a, and a 63% lower CO2 equivalent charge than a similar capacity R410a counterpart. It means end users can significantly reduce environmental impact with no loss of performance.

So, Daikin Applied is already addressing the challenges Mr Branson highlighted. Of course, there is more to do, but we are up to the challenge.