Enabling access to household refrigeration services through cost reductions from energy efficiency improvements
Refrigerators are widely used by consumers with access to the electricity grid but rarely used in offgrid settings where households rely on a limited supply of electricity such as that by a stand-alone solar home system, because refrigerators’ power consumption requires a solar system size that is unaffordable for most consumers. Reducing the power consumption of refrigerators by improving their efficiency is one solution to this issue. In this paper, we assess the technical potential and costs of using commercially available technology to reduce the energy consumption of small (50- and 100-L) refrigerators. Our analysis shows that refrigerator electricity consumption can be reduced by about 50% and 70% using commercially available energy-efficient components at an incremental cost of about $45–$60 and $100–$120 per unit, respectively. Further, we find that highly efficient small refrigerators can be potentially
available less than $300 if they sold at scale unlike much higher prices seen in the market today. We also find that the total annualized cost of an off-grid solar home system (including the cost of the refrigerator) can be decreased by about 50% if the most efficient refrigerator we analyzed is used, compared with the same energy system with a standard refrigerator because the additional cost of the efficient refrigerator is significantly lower than the cost savings due to smaller capacity requirements for panels and batteries. We recommend that policies such as awards, procurement, and standards be considered to facilitate the adoption of energy-efficient refrigerators in off-grid and microgrid settings.