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Driving sustainability with Cooling-as-a-Service 

By Dave Mackerness

Cooling is critical to our modern society. It provides comfort for buildings and essential temperature controls for mission critical infrastructure like data centres and pharmaceutical manufacturing. While cooling technologies keep us comfortable and safe, they also impact the climate. According to the World Green Building Council, the cooling, heating and lighting of buildings is responsible for around 28% of global CO2 emissions. In Singapore, buildings make up over 20% of carbon emissions. 

Countries worldwide are taking initiatives to reduce the carbon emissions emitted from buildings. Most recently Singapore’s Minister for National Development confirmed that the country had greened over 49% of its buildings, surpassing the halfway point of its goal to green 80% of its buildings (by gross floor area) by 2030 . Malaysia has pledged to reduce its emissions intensity by 45% of GDP by 2030 compared to a 2005 baseline and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.  India targets to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2070 .

And yet as we build and create more, we will demand more and more cooling. With demand forecasted to triple in the next 30 years, much of which coming from Asia. Building owners need to prioritise smart, sustainable cooling solutions that support green building standards.

Challenges with traditional cooling models

Traditionally, building owners purchase, install and run cooling systems, engaging various consultants, contractors and operators. The design and installation of equipment requires high upfront costs, along with ongoing maintenance and operational costs due to repairs and deteriorating system efficiency.

As various suppliers are involved, individuals are accountable only for specific equipment. No single supplier is responsible for the performance of the cooling system as a whole. On top of this, measures to improve efficiency and sustainability (ie. installing a new chiller plant system) is often less prioritised as it is seen as expensive with long payback periods of five to 10 years. 

Sustainability with Cooling as a Service

Alternative business models, particularly servicisation, can help unlock investments in efficient and cleaner technologies while enabling building owners to reduce operational costs. This model or Cooling as a Service (CaaS) allows building owners to simply subscribe to air-conditioning rather than purchasing, installing and maintaining the cooling systems themselves. 

The model shifts the upfront investment, as well as project performance risk, from the user to the service provider. The service provider takes the reins in selecting the ideal technology to drive sustainability and has the flexibility to reallocate equipment as needed to maximise resources. Building owners simply dictate the conditions they wish to achieve – 23 C for example – and buy cooling at a fixed $/RTH (Refrigerant Ton Hour) rate on a pay-as-you-use basis.

While the traditional model prioritises hardware use, CaaS employs advanced technology like big data, analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to maximise the cooling system’s efficiency. Service providers can maximise the asset’s cooling performance by monitoring and controlling the system in real time and optimise the functions using data and AI. This eliminates energy wastage and creates better indoor experiences that adapt to the changing conditions of the premises.

Businesses can also achieve cooling powered by solar power and recycled water. 1 Elpro Business Park & Elpro City Square, a mixed-use development in Pune, India, implemented the CaaS model to provide cooling to its retail centre, automotive parts factory, offices, schools and community spaces. The AI-powered chiller plant runs on 100% solar energy and provides a surplus of clean energy that can power over 200 Indian households a year. The entire system is run and monitored remotely with a real-time data tracking and analysis system enabled with in-built controls and a fully automated optimisation tool.

In Singapore, the INSEAD Asia campus received the Green Mark Platinum award from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), the top award for green buildings given out by the industry regulator. The campus is served by a water-cooled chiller plant system, under the CaaS model, that is consistently performing at an optimal level, 25% better than the platinum standard of the BCA Green Mark criteria. This translates to a 4.8% savings in total building energy consumption. 

CaaS is the key to sustainable future

Cooling currently accounts for 10% of global electricity demand and is projected to be responsible for as much as 30% of ASEAN’s peak electricity demand by 2040. As cooling needs grow, implementing clean and efficient cooling is key to avoiding a climate catastrophe and a surge in electricity demand. 

CaaS is set to revolutionise how cooling is delivered to people, enabling access to clean and advanced cooling solutions in a sustainable manner that benefits people, businesses and the world.

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