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Chain reaction

Following an enthusiastic response by RAC readers online, the University of Birmingham Policy Commissions have clarified the aims of the recently announced Cross-Industry Cold Chain Commission

Statement by Professor Toby Peters and Professor Martin Freer on the aims of the cross-industry Cold Chain Commission

“In keeping with previous Policy Commissions, the University of Birmingham’s Policy Commission – Doing Cold Smarter – has been established to consider how we can improve and enhance the delivery of cold at a systems level in the UK and globally; how UK plc can benefit from more resource-efficient cold infrastructure and technology; and how Britain can demonstrate leadership.

The objective is to propose areas of research and policies to make that paradigm shift a reality.

“It will not favour one technology over another or represent one element of industry. Rather, it seeks to address an issue, which many people in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry already acknowledge – that cooling is not given the attention or the focus at the highest levels of government that it deserves. If we can address that, and include cold in the strategic thinking around a smart energy system, then it will be good for everyone.

“It’s important to recognise that this commission is entirely funded by the university.

It will not receive any dedicated government funding and it will not divert any money allocated for any form of energy research.

Rather, it will consider the issues, make compelling recommendations later this year and help to raise the profile of cooling – then it will be up to industry and government to make things happen.

“Commissioners have been selected because of their wide-ranging academic and industrial experience. Expert witnesses will then also be called to give specific insights and knowledge.

There will be extensive opportunity for people from a wide range of industries to contribute evidence, especially those with experience of the refrigeration and air conditioning sector.

“This commission is just one step on that journey.”

Why should funds be directed towards a technology that’s very much in its infancy?

The Policy Commission, which is being run by and paid for by the University of Birmingham, is not concerned with specific technologies, but rather with a system-level approach to delivering resource efficient, low emission cold and the changes to government policy required to make that happen.

Within that system, there is certainly room for investment to reduce the environmental impact of current refrigeration technologies, to develop new clean-cold technologies and to identify new approaches for the delivery of cooling infrastructure around the world. One of our aims is to make this case, with robust evidence, to government.

The commission has been accused of avoiding any collaboration with established bodies. Why is this?

Unfortunately, this is simply wrong. The Policy Commission has only just begun. We have agreed that the provision of cold is not part of the energy debate, that it should be investigated further and that there is potential for major economic growth if the UK can establish global pre-eminence in high efficiency, resource efficient, low emission cooling.

The Commissioners will invite experts from all elements of the cooling and refrigeration industries – including companies involved in existing technologies, those developing new ones and end-users – to give evidence and express their views on the system level technology pathways and policies required to ‘do cold smarter’.  Along with those who give oral evidence, this process will include an open opportunity to submit written evidence.

The Commissioners have been selected from a broad spectrum of industry and academia because of their experience, their strategic vision and their prior experience of policy review and formulation.

What is it that’s so different to what other industry bodies have been doing, here and abroad, already?

It’s crucially important to recognise that the Policy Commission is not an industry body or a trade association. It is an academic-led policy commission, run by the University of Birmingham, to consider how cold can be delivered at a system level with maximum resource efficiency and resource recovery and the policies that are required to make that happen.

This is necessary because cold is still not given the recognition is deserves at the highest level of government. Within the civil service there are tens, if not hundreds, of officials whose job it is to make heating cheaper, more sustainable and more efficient – and part of the smart energy system. But nobody is yet focusing on cooling. That is a travesty and it highlights the urgent need for this Policy Commission.

The Commission will not represent any element of the cooling industry or research community. However, there will be scope for trade associations, institutions and industry bodies to take on the recommendations and help deliver a new ‘cold economy’, within which numerous companies can contribute and prosper.

In terms of scope, it will deliver an evaluation of cold, how it can be delivered at a national and international level, how clean technologies can deliver both economic and environmental benefits and the policy developments needed to make it a reality.

Professor Toby Peters is managing director of liquid air cooling technology Dearman, as well as being a professor at Birmingham University. Is there not a bias towards the aforementioned technology?

I [Professor Toby Peters] am playing an active role in establishing the Commission because I firmly believe that cooling – encompassing refrigeration, air conditioning and more – has been overlooked within the energy debate for far too long.

However, the Commission is entirely independent, chaired by Lord Teverson, with a number of commissioners representing a broad swathe of academia, NGOs and industry. The Commissioners will dictate what is considered, what evidence is taken and ultimately the recommendations that are given. No technology will be favoured nor be intentionally overlooked, as the aspiration is to maximise the total environmental and economic benefits of the ‘cold economy’ through essential policy change.

Professor Toby Peters is visiting professor in Power and Cold Economy at the University of Birmingham. Professor Martin Freer is director of the Birmingham Energy Institute

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