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Time to take Greg Barker at his word

The policy-makers telling us to acelerate the move from HFCs need to realise that someone has to help the industry pay for it

If the government has promised to help the fridge industry, it’s time to take them at their word

It has been quite a month for surprises. It started with the pleasant surprise of a government minister promising to do something for the cooling industry and ended with a potentially less pleasant prospect of European politicians voting to significantly ramp up the F-gas regulations - described by the BRA as  a ‘dark day for democracy’ (see p4.)

The environmental lobbyists and the politicians love to portray everything in the simplest terms. Their belief with regards to refrigeration seems to be that people are merely just refusing to move with the times on naturals and just need a bit of a shove. Their argument runs ‘if you put more pressure on the market, it will be forced to change.”

But behind the two simple words ‘market transition’ can lie a whole lot of heartache and expense borne by the industry.

Accelerating the take-up of naturals means putting more engineers through training; it very likely means putting more resources into the field to up the pace of conversions and to cover the technology teething troubles; it is bound to mean issues with supply as the manufacturers have to adjust their numbers. You can add your own challenges.

RAC prides itself on recognising innovation and environmental progress – these twin values define the Cooling Awards, for which the shortlist is published next month – so I think we should come out of the green closet and state that the fundamental move towards natural refrigerants has got to be the right thing. (if you are more of a Canute and think that new technology should inherently not be trusted, there are other magazines that will cater to you).

We remain refrigerant agnostic as a magazine, provided it is more environmentally friendly than what it replaces, so we are certainly not discounting HFOs, but if the large retailers are now in agreement that adoption of naturals should be a common commitment, we should recognise that this means they are here to stay.

But in the excitement we would do well to remember that there is a whole estate out there running on HFCs. Some people forget that.

The full European Parliament votes on the new more aggressive phasedown in August, so our industry bodies have one last chance to appeal to their representatives for more pragmatism.

But once we accept that change is going to come, then we need to redouble our efforts to stop refrigeration people bearing the brunt of the costs. This is where Greg Barker needs to be taken at his word.

His announcement in front of the Consumer Goods Forum of a refrigeration task force included a promise to help the industry overcome the barriers to take-up of naturals, including training and cost of supply. So I suggest the industry makes it very clear that it needs support both practical and financial if it is to respond to the European politicians’ demands.  Let’s see if Mr Barker puts his money where his mouth is.

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