Feasibility study for district cooling in the Maldives

The Coalition, through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Devcco, prepared a study to examine the feasibility of replacing the existing population of HCFC/HFC based air-conditioners in Malé and Hulhumalé, Maldives, with district cooling technology, thereby contributing to Maldives’ national goals of carbon neutrality and HCFC phase-out by 2020.

The study concludes that "[v]ery substantial reductions of emitted greenhouse gases can be achieved by introducing district cooling in the development areas of Hulhumale’. Avoided emissions of carbon dioxide alone amount to up to 142,000 tons per year. By avoidance of large numbers of building individual air conditioning systems leakage of refrigerants being powerful greenhouse gases will also be diminished."


Left unconstrained, HFCs are projected to grow to as much as 19% of emissions of carbon dioxide by 2050.  Such growth would offset in large part progress being made on other short-lived climate pollutants as well as carbon dioxide (CO2) mitigation itself. 

Maldives is in a critical stage of transition in coming years out of current HCFC-based cooling technologies and in the current situation, the country is seeing growth in air-conditioners using HFCs. 

Not-in-kind alternatives include vapor absorption systems, deep seawater cooling systems, tidal and other cooling systems, etc. in a district/community cooling configuration. These systems do not use conventional refrigerants, such as HCFCs, HFCs and HCs. They can use multitude of energy sources such as waste heat, steam, direct heat, electricity, etc. These systems are potentially more energy efficient and have an overall low carbon footprint. They appear to be prima facie appropriate candidates for replacement of HCFC/HFC based air-conditioners. Thus, this presents an opportunity to utilize a climate-friendly district cooling approach, rather than transitioning to high-GWP HFC technologies in the Maldives.


The overall objective with this feasibility study was originally to develop and evaluate options for a district cooling approach that would obviate the use of HCFC/HFC on the island of Malé. As a result of inception consultations with participation by the Maldivian Government the geographic focus has been altered to include i) the Hulhumalé developments and ii) the most feasible clusters of existing buildings in Malé.

The UNDP and Devcco were the implementers of this activity. The scope of the feasibility study is to develop a set of minimum commercial and technical requirements for district cooling to:

  • Drive efficiency upwards and optimize long-term costs
  • Rely on best industrial practice and design standards
  • Review and access the market expected cooling demand
  • Identify the optimal district cooling system concept
  • Describe the optimal technical concept
  • Estimate OPEX and CAPEX
  • Identify key success factors and risks
  • Estimate main environmental impacts such as water savings, carbon footprint and ozone depletion potential

Pollutants (SLCPs)