At the end of last year, the Federal Government laid out its position on joining the global effort to drastically reduce hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions. Although the Government painted itself as a leader in this effort the fact is we are behind Europe in taking action to reduce HFC emissions by 85 per cent, the target set at the Montreal Protocol Meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda. The Turnbull Government has pledged to implement a domestic cap on HFC imports from 2018 to meet its 2030 emission reduction targets. The phase-down agreement will see Australia and other developed countries phase-down HFCs to 85 per cent of current consumption levels by 2036.
For those that don’t already know, HFCs are the main refrigerant used today, so any change in legislation will impact the foodservice sector in a big way. Alternative refrigerants are already being marketed – primarily low global warming potential (GWP) hydrofluoro-olefin (HFO) refrigerants or natural refrigerants such as carbon dioxide or amonia.
Replacing your current refrigerator brings with it two questions?
What’s the shelf life and how much will it cost to run? Buying the wrong type of refrigerator could potentially cost far more than many are anticipating due to the likely increase in the cost of the refrigerants [as HFCs are phased out] and energy prices.
Stefan Jensen, from the Australian Refrigeration Association, says Australia has “been taken with its pants down” on the issue.
“Not because we haven’t known that it has been coming, but because we have had three decades of educational neglect in this country at every level in the refrigeration industry and so we are not prepared for what’s coming,” he says.
“Cheap condensing units that you see in bars and butchers shops and all over the place often come from China and are designed for hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants, and they are going to be phased out. The chemical companies are promoting the alternative, the so called low GWP refrigerants, which will be 10 to 20 times more expensive than the ones we are getting rid of and no more energy efficient.”
The chemical manufacturing industry makes billions out of refrigerants and isn’t going to let this cash cow go without a fight, says Jensen, who believes they will simply swap one environmentally harmful product for another.
Refrigeration systems that use low GWP synthetic refrigerants offer no energy savings compared with those using high GWP synthetic HFC refrigerants. Jensen is concerned those who buy refrigerators that use HFOs will be once again forced to change equipment in 15 to 20 years as the ramifications of the COP 21 ratification made in Paris, which set out a pathway to bring down carbon emissions, come into effect.
“If they change to HFOs now, then in 20 years they will have to change again as they run into difficulties in regarding compliance with COP 21, not to mention the other environmental side effects that go beyond global warming,” says Jensen.
“If you change now [to natural refrigerants] you will get lower costs [of the refrigerant] and lower energy costs.”
Keri Thomas, general manager at SKOPE Industries, says it is about future proofing your business.
In 2015, SKOPE released its ActiveCore range, which was designed to be both energy efficient and adaptable to the changing market place for refrigerants.
”It’s the most energy efficient fridge of its type in the southern hemisphere. It’s over 50 per cent more efficient than our previous glass door range, and up to 65 per cent more efficient than others in the market,” says Thomas.
“Whilst the ActiveCore glass door range took SKOPE over two years and millions of dollars to develop, it has proven that owners of hospitality businesses are making buying choices on their long term running costs as opposed to simply looking the up-front price. When these decisions also significantly reduce their environmental impact it really is a win-win.”