Positive impact of recent MEPS on the air conditioner market in China
In June 2023, CLASP published a report highlighting how a recent, more stringent MEPS precipitated the rise of more efficient air conditioners in just two years.
In 2022, China represented 45% of the global Room Air Conditioner (RAC) market, according to national figures from ChinaIOL retrieved by CLASP (Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program). That year, China was also the largest exporter of RACs, producing approximately 80% of the world’s AC units. Given the country’s share in the global AC market, Chinese RAC energy efficiency policies can significantly influence global energy savings and provide substantial emission reductions.
Zeng L. et al. from CLASP authored a report on the impact on the RAC market of the Chinese GB 21455-2019 standard (“Minimum allowable values of the energy efficiency and energy efficiency grades for room air conditioners”). Implemented on 1 July 2020, the revised MEPS unified the energy efficiency requirements for fixed speed and variable speed RACs, which raised the minimum requirement of RACs by 13% and made its grade 1 level one of the most stringent RAC MEPS in the world.
A market survey showed that following the new MEPS, the Chinese RAC market quickly transitioned to higher-efficiency technologies and lower-GWP refrigerants. The share of inverter ACs soared from 53% in 2017 to 95% in 2021. At the same time, less efficient, fixed-speed RACs nearly disappeared from the domestic market. The survey also found that products at the highest energy efficiency level (grade 1) increased their market share from 19% to 56% within just two years of enacting the new MEPS.
It should be noted that the energy efficiency of RACs exported from China did not improve at the same rate as the efficiency improvement of domestic RACs. Nevertheless, this effective MEPS is benefitting both domestic and export markets (see figure). For instance, between 2019 and 2021, a trend towards lower GWP refrigerants was observed in exported RACs. For window-type RACs, R22 decreased from 35% to 10% within three years. Meanwhile, R32 increased from 18% to 49%. For split type RACs, R22 shrank from 34% to 9.9%, and R32 rose from 30% to 53%. For portable RACs, R410A and R290 dominate the category.
Lei Zeng, Bo Hu, Feiyan Zhao, Colin Taylor, Jiayi Zhang, Qianqian Cui, China’s MEPS Lead to Major AC Market Transformation, CLASP, June 2023, https://www.clasp.ngo/research/all/chinas-meps-lead-to-major-ac-market-transformation/