© WWF-US / Paul Fetters
Cool & Solar
The power pair: Efficient cooling and solar
How solar energy and sustainable cooling in buildings can be major solutions in a warming world

To cut greenhouse gas emissions and tackle the climate crisis, we need to rapidly change how we produce and consume energy. Using energy more efficiently and generating energy through renewables (rather than fossil fuels) will play a massive role in reducing global emissions.

As the world warms, more energy-intensive cooling services (particularly air conditioners) will be needed, exacerbating the impact on the climate. At the same time, rooftop solar energy can provide much of the world’s electricity.

The combination of both solutions can ensure we can keep our people cool without contributing to global warming. WWF is working to drive this change through our ‘Cool & Solar’ initiative.

The initiative is active in several countries, including Cambodia, Philippines, Bhutan, Singapore and Indonesia. It builds on WWF’s Upfront programme, which helped install solar energy in more than 50 WWF buildings around the world and supplied energy management devices in over 30.  

WWF has been working on energy efficiency for several decades – examples of our work in action can be found in our collection of case studies.


Global Energy Efficiency Lead: Richard Scotney, richard.scotney@wwf.org.kh

WWF Upfront: Jean-Philippe Denruyter, jpdenruyter@wwf.panda.org

© Global Warming Images / WWF
Why is it important?

There is a huge potential for rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV), but we aren’t taking nearly enough advantage of this clean power source. Solar PV on existing buildings has the potential to provide a high share of the world’s total electricity consumption. Indeed, the potential electricity available for rooftop solar (26.8 PWh) can cover 95%+ of global electricity demand (28 PWh). 

Solar PV can also be deployed very quickly (a few days to a few weeks for a new installation, compared to fossil or nuclear solutions which take years), and can be integrated in existing structures, without the need for new land. In recent years, solar PV prices have become much more competitive, and will often be cheaper than any other electricity producing technology.

While cooling is essential to meet sustainable development goals, it also presents a very significant threat for the climate. Nearly 20% of the total electricity used in buildings across the globe is spent on cooling technology like air conditioners and electric fans. Over the next three decades, the demand for cooling is expected to become one of the top drivers of increased energy demand.

It doesn’t need to be like this – cooling can be much more efficient and demand less energy. This can be done by reducing our need for cooling through improved ‘passive’ cooling solutions (such as better building insulation, optimised shading solutions and cool roofs) and implementing robust standards for cooling appliances.

Both solutions create the perfect pair. The hotter the sun, the higher the solar production and the greater the need for cooling. Solar energy can directly provide energy to cooling systems, thereby reducing the need for electricity from large power stations far away, and alleviating pressure on the power lines.

What WWF is doing

Our world has been too slow in recognizing the potential that sustainable cooling and solar energy offer as a solution to the climate crisis, and implementing this at scale. 

The Cool and Solar initiative is active in several countries:

Elsewhere, WWF Indonesia works with hotels and supermarkets on efficient cooling and rooftop solar, as part of the Climate Solutions Partnership. WWF Singapore worked with the Singapore government on opportunities for efficient cooling to achieve net-zero. In Pakistan, WWF contributed to the National Cooling Action Plan. In India, WWF has studied low-carbon cooling solutions for buildings.

WWF has been active in energy efficiency for several decades – examples of our work in action can be found in our collection of case studies.

See the Case Studies

Case Studies: Energy Efficiency in Action

For over 25 years, WWF has been promoting energy efficiency, given its importance in the effort to avert catastrophic climate change. This report showcases ten WWF energy efficiency initiatives around the world.

Download (PDF)

Energy efficiency in iconic buildings
Iconic buildings are already in cities’ spotlights, and taking steps to improve their energy use can help them become climate champions too. Local citizens, visitors and tourists can learn more about the importance of energy efficiency from these famous landmarks.

WWF is working to identify iconic buildings in the world’s major cities that are ready for energy transition projects. Currently, beautiful buildings in Bhutan, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Viet Nam are monitoring their electricity consumption and getting efficiency upgrades, showing their users how to transition toward smart and efficient energy usage. These include:
  • The Municipal Palace of Lima, Peru
  • The Stock Exchange in Santiago, Chile
  • The headquarters of the Government of Cundinamarca in Bogotá, Colombia
  • The Huong Giang Hotel in Hue, Viet Nam
  • The Bank of Bhutan Headquarters in Thimphu, Bhutan.
Each WWF Iconic Building undergoes a similar process. First, data is gathered to help better understand the building’s energy use. Next, there is an effort to identify where energy savings are possible. Once efficiency improvements are made, a key step is to identify for all building users how much energy is being saved. This helps users stay motivated and on track with minimizing energy waste.
Did you know?

A climate ally

Better energy efficiency policies could help the world achieve 40% of the emissions cuts needed to reach its climate goals. Source: IEA

Overwhelming emissions

If the current trends in the growth of air conditioning and refrigeration continue over the next three decades, cooling alone could use up all of our remaining carbon budget to limit warming to 1.5°C. Source: Climate and Clean Air Coalition