Brussels – October 2012: Fluorinated gases currently contribute 1.1% to global greenhouse gas emissions, and in the EU the current provisions of the F-Gas Regulation and the Directive on Mobile Air-Conditioning (MAC) are expected to reduce direct F-Gas emissions by more than 40% in 2030.
Nevertheless, along with the requirements of the roadmap for a low carbon economy, the EU Commission identified potential additional F-Gas emission savings of 70 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2030. EPEE estimates that the heating and cooling industry can make a substantial contribution to achieve this goal provided that the complexity of the sector and the strong interconnection between refrigerants, energy consumption, uptake of renewable energy technologies and safety are respected.
A realistic and technically achievable cap and phase-down mechanism for F-gas refrigerants supports the existing F-Gas Regulation by limiting the quantities of HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) available and hence stimulating the containment and recovery of these gases. It is also unique in providing both regulatory certainty to achieve the required emission savings, and flexibility for a complex sector. As an example, recent studies have identified more than 40 heating and cooling applications, all requiring different technologies and covering a very wide range from refrigerated trucks to food processing, heating and cooling of buildings, refrigeration in supermarkets, etc.
Andrea Voigt, EPEE’s Director General explains: “There is no perfect refrigerant. Refrigerant choice is complex and often a compromise between many different factors. Two of these are non-negotiable: the safety and the energy efficiency of the installations. Safety is essential for the installers and the users of the equipment. Energy Efficiency has a major impact on running cost and our environment, as most of the emissions are due to energy consumption.”
Yes to a realistic and achievable HFC phase-down
According to the latest evidence based on two studies funded by EPEE, one from the French research institutes ARMINES/ERIE and the other from British SKM Enviros, a phase-down could achieve a reduction in HFC consumption by 30% in 2020 (vs. 2010) and by up to 65% in 2030, provided a re-assessment takes place in 2020 to evaluate feasibility and progress made.
Such a phase-down scheme could achieve fluorocarbon emission savings of approximately 74 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent in the refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump (RAC) sector alone – well in line with the requirements of the low carbon roadmap.
An over-ambitious phase-down schedule, however, would be counter-productive. It would for example put at risk the growth of heat pump technologies, which predominantly use HFCs for their safe and efficient operation. Heat pumps are absolutely essential for the EU’s 20-20-20 targets and are expected to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 155 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2030 compared to fossil fuel based heating systems.
No to HFC bans
The Commission’s own research as well as the SKM Enviros study have also shown that a phase-down is the most cost-effective way of reducing emissions. Whilst it is important to take into account that the cost per ton of CO2-equivalent abated varies significantly depending on the application, findings from SKM Enviros indicate an average cost of €15 to €25 per ton of CO2-equivalent abated.
Adding bans on top of a phase-down, however, would increase the cost of emission reduction very significantly. For example, by adding HFC bans in commercial refrigeration and certain HFC maintenance bans, the total cost could potentially increase by as much as €25 billion by 2030 compared to the cost of a phase-down only. EPEE therefore questions the usefulness and the effectiveness of adding bans on top of a phase-down. Clearly, future F-Gas rules need to strike the right balance between the aim they are trying to achieve and the economic impact on industry and society that they will bring about.
Banning HFCs in certain applications does also not guarantee that an alternative can perform as well and as safely in all applications and climate zones. In an industry sector where indirect emissions due to energy consumption account for 70 to 80% of total CO2 emissions, it would be detrimental to the EU climate and energy targets to sacrifice energy efficiency. For example, refrigerant solutions such as carbon dioxide are known to be less efficient in hot ambient climate zones; and in small air-conditioning applications, there is no safe and energy efficient alternative which fulfils the future minimum energy efficiency requirements set under the European ecodesign rules.
The European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) represents the refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump industry in Europe. Founded in the year 2000, EPEE’s membership is composed of 40 member companies and national associations across Europe realising a turnover of over 30 billion Euros and employing more than 200,000 people in Europe. As an expert association, EPEE is supporting safe, environmentally and economically viable technologies with the objective of promoting a better understanding of the sector in the EU and contributing to the development of effective European policies. For more information, please visit www.epeeglobal.org .