One of the objectives of the F-Gas Regulation should be to push the developments of new technological innovations and alternative technologies, says natural refrigerants body Eurammon
“In contrast to F-gases, natural refrigerants offer the advantage of having either no, or only a negligible, global warming potential,” says Eurammon chairwoman, Monika Witt.
“As a result, their contribution to the greenhouse effect is only marginal, even in the event of leaks or when disposing of the refrigerant.”
While on the expert group reviewing the F-Gas Regulation, Eurammon was one of those participants which drew attention to the high potential for reducing F-gases by using ammonia as a refrigerant, for example in stationary air-conditioning systems.
Eurammon also emphasised the good thermodynamic properties of ammonia and hydrocarbons for applications in the critical temperature range.
Ms Witt takes issue with the widespread opinion that installations operating with natural refrigerants are always going to be less efficient than those using synthetic refrigerants.
She says: “This statement must be revised to the effect that solutions with natural refrigerants have at least the same efficiency, thanks to skilful planning and systematic installation optimisation.
“Ammonia, for example, is deemed to be the refrigerant with the best thermodynamic properties, making it one of the most cost- and energy-efficient refrigerants of all.”
Ms Witt says she can envisage the introduction of incentives for using systems with natural refrigerants, either in the form of subsidies or tax allowances.
“Another proven possibility could be a penalty for refrigerants with high global warming potential,” she says. “In September, the Australian government introduced a bill in Parliament for a carbon dioxide tax, which includes taxation on F-gas imports.”
In parts of Europe, some countries have already implemented additional measures to speed up the transition to existing environmentally friendly technologies.
The Scandinavian countries, for example, levy an additional F-gas tax. One kilogram of R134a costs €17.50 in tax in Denmark, €35 in Sweden, and up to €39 in Norway.
“It is important to come to harmonised European standards in order to support the safe use of natural refrigerants,” says Ms Witt.
“Right now, there exist too many obstacles in some countries.
“Natural refrigerants are low in cost, available in unlimited quantities and already cover practically all refrigeration applications today.
“This must be the basis for optimising and advancing refrigeration technology.”
Ms Witt concludes: “The energy efficiency of installations and components can still be optimised even further by research and development.
“In the future, it should be possible for installations to produce the energy that they need to operate and the waste heat produced by installations could be used for hot water or heating.”
The Environmental Investigation Agency
It is almost 10 years since the F-Gas Regulation was first conceived and alternative technologies have dramatically progressed, as well as our understanding of the impacts of climate change.
The Environmental Investigation Agency recognises that the current containment and recovery measures in the F-Gas Regulation need to be implemented and improved, but the ethos of containment and recovery is not ambitious enough to help the European Union transition towards a competitive, low-carbon economy. At best, it will only result in the stabilisation of HFC emissions at unacceptable levels. The only way the European Union can maintain its low carbon outlook is to phase out HFCs.
In addition to setting ambitious HFC phase-out targets, the Commission needs to give due consideration to additional measures that will promote the uptake of natural refrigerant alternatives to HFCs, including adequate funding for their development and promotion, examination of the barriers identified and consideration of additional policy measures, such as tax schemes.
While an HFC phase-out is not without challenges, it is also a huge opportunity and the only rational response to the certain and continued failure of containment and recovery measures, as well as the undue and ongoing financial burden that has been unfairly shifted from producers and onto member states.
This conforms to EU policy under the Lisbon Treaty, which requires the European Commission to “aim at a high level of protection … based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventative action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay”.
Cost-effective alternatives are available and are already replacing HFC technologies. EIA urges policy-makers to seize this opportunity and further encourage and accelerate these responsible transitions, and calls on the Commission to put forward proposals for an HFC phase-out by 2020.
See more on the EIA’s position at: www.eia-international.org