Improving the energy efficiency of room air conditioners in China: Costs and benefits
China is the world’s largest consumer of room air conditioners, and it contributes about a quarter of global space cooling CO2 emissions. We model the costs and benefits of recently proposed new room air conditioner minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) in China. Our results suggest that newly proposed MEPS brings accumulative CO2 emissions reductions of 12.8% between 2019 and 2050, and accumulative bill saving of 2620 billion RMB to China's consumers. The benefits of the proposed MEPS decrease with longer MEPS revision intervals and increase with shorter intervals—indicating that the intervals should be balanced to maximize benefits while accommodating constraints due to air conditioner manufacturer design cycles. We also model potential nationwide benefits from higher MEPS. Across two increasingly aggressive MEPS scenarios, China’s room air conditioner electricity consumption and CO2 emissions in 2050 are both reduced by 15–53% compared to the proposed MEPS. The highest-efficiency scenario (reaching MEPS of annual performance factor 5.4 in 2025) provides the largest long-term national benefits. These results could inform development of a Chinese regulatory regime that effectively updates room air conditioner MEPS. Because China is the world’s largest manufacturer of room air conditioners, the economic, energy, and emissions benefits resulting from higher Chinese MEPS could also have a global reach.