Western Cooling Challenge


Why we are focused on cooling efficiency

Energy use in commercial buildings

Cooling and ventilation account for more than 25% of electricity consumption in California commercial buildings. Next to lighting, this is the largest category of electricity use in commercial buildings, and the systems providing cooling and ventilation are typically the single largest individually connected loads in a building.

Cooling is the peak demand problem

Cooling and ventilation account for more than 50% of the summer time peak electrical draw by California commercial buildings. Almost 50% of the connected generation in California is reserved to operate for less than 10% of hours on the hottest summer afternoons. Peak demand in California is growing at about 2.4 percent per year, roughly the equivalent of three new 500-megawatt power plants. Consequently, a significant portion of electricity cost results from construction and operation of capital intensive peak power plants.


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Rooftop packaged air conditioners are the most significant load for commercial buildings

According to the California Energy Commission California Commercial End-Use Survey (CEUS), roughly 65% of commercial floor area is cooled by packaged rooftop units, while more than 80% of the individually connected air conditioning systems fall in this category. There are broad opportunities for efficiency improvements with this type of system, especially in hot and arid climates of the Western United States where appropriate application of evaporative cooling in conjunction with other efficient design strategies can improve system efficiency by more than 50%. This level of efficiency improvement for rooftop packaged air conditioners is essential to reach energy and environmental goals.

California demands a 15% market penetration for climate appropriate air conditioners by 2015

The program was developed at the behest of commercial building owners and investor-owned utilities who would like to see the success of such technologies in the market place. Their interest in the Challenge is motivated by state and corporate goals for energy efficiency and sustainability. For example, the California Public Utility Commission’s Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan gives specific priority to the application of climate-appropriate cooling technologies such as those that have been developed for the Cooling Challenge, and sets goals for 15% market penetration for climate appropriate air conditioners by 2015.