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Lib-Dem Lord to Lead Cross-Industry Cold Chain Commission to raise profile of 'cold'

Aim of policy commission is to raise cooling issues up the energy agenda’ says Lord Teverson. Birmingham Energy Institute seeks industry input on economic value of cooling?

Liberal Democrat climate change spokesman Lord Robin Teverson is to lead a cross-industry commission seeking to advance the cause of the cold chain.

The commission was launched along with the University of Birmingham’s Birmingham Energy Institute who released a report called Doing Cold Smarter.

The Institute has posed five questions for industry, thought leaders, government and the research community, the answers to which should illuminate the potential environmental, health and economic benefits of a Cold Economy, along with the scale of the potential opportunity for Britain, and any policy measures needed to secure it.

  • What is the scale of the demand for cooling services up to 2030 and beyond in the UK and globally?
  • What would be the environmental, economic and health impacts of a business as usual approach? What is the economic case for cold technologies – does it really make sense?
  • What would be the full economic value to UK plc of developing a system-level strategy and associated clean cold technologies, including GDP, jobs, exports, and environmental and health impacts? Does the business case stack up?
  • What are the industrial, R&D and skill requirements that the UK requires to become a global leader in the development of new products and services for the Cold Economy worldwide?
  • Is cold sufficiently recognised and integrated into policy on energy, air quality, transport, exports and overseas aid, and if not, what changes should be introduced?

Writing on the Liberal Democrat website, Lord Teverson said: “There is one area that has been left out of our energy debate almost completely, and some estimate that it already accounts for up to 14 per cent of our energy usage. What is it? It is ‘cold’.”

The commission promises to promote the importance of the contribution of cooling and of refrigeration technology to improving the cold chain, both in the UK, where the issue is food wastage and in the developing world, where the issues are around livelihoods.

Lord Teverson said: “At a time when we rightly worry about the fuel poor in our society, we sometimes forget that with temperatures rising and with it the demand for air conditioning, increased demand for chilled foods, imported ultra-cold liquefied gas, and low storage temperatures for medical supplies and similar sensitive products, the demand for cooling rather than heating is growing apace.”

He said: “The scandal is that some 30% of the world’s food production is grown but never consumed. In our developed world the culprit is waste from use-by dates, and throwing away what’s filled our fridges for too many weeks. But in developing countries it is because food is lost either due to spoiling by infestation, but just as importantly because it spoils before reaching its market. That’s due to a lack of cooling and temperature control.”

“As someone that was involved in refrigerated supply chains in my industrial career, and Lib Dem spokesperson in the Lords on energy and climate change, I was pleased to be asked by the University of Birmingham to chair a new commission they are setting up. It will look at the whole area of ‘cold’ in the energy mix and giving it the better profile it demands.”

Over the next six months the commission, made up of industrialists, academics, experts on international development, and energy professionals, will look at how to can make the cold chain far more efficient and climate friendly.

One of the key areas, Lord Teverson said, will be liquefied gas, something the University of Birmingham has been involved with in its work on cryogenic energy storage.

“We will be seeing how all the vast and wasted energy that derives from turning liquefied gas back into – well – gas, is captured and reused. We will be focusing on how we can help rural farmers in developing nations get their goods to market in a condition that boosts their income. Not least we will be looking to give UK industry a head start in this new world of increasing demand for cold.”

“The whole climate change agenda that we as Lib Dems champion means that we have to look not just at decarbonising our energy, but making its use as efficient as possible. Factoring in our need for cold as well as heat is going to be an increasingly important factor in that efficiency equation.”

The Birmingham Energy Institute stressed the importance of cooling to the fabric of society: “Without it, the supply of food, medicine and data would simply break down. Cold is also vital for many other applications including air conditioning, super-critical technologies and freezing and powdering materials for recycling and easy disposal. Yet cooling currently consumes large amounts of energy and causes a great deal of pollution.

“E4tech has estimated that more than 10% of Britain’s electricity goes to cooling, and we spend around £5.2 billion each year on energy for cold across the grid and transport.”

“India projects it needs to spend $15bn on cold china alone in the next five years. At the same time, however, vast amounts of cold are wasted, for example during the re-gasification of LNG at import terminals, which could potentially be recycled to reduce the cost and environmental impact of cooling in buildings, industry and vehicles.”

It is therefore vital, the Institute said was to include ‘cold’ in the planning of the future energy infrastructure.

“The next 10 years of development in the reconfiguration of the UK’s energy landscape and the rapid building out of the energy infrastructure in the emerging markets requires an accelerated adoption of a variety of energy technologies. Many of these technologies will be a radical departure from the traditional methodologies. As we move towards delivering greater energy efficiency through new technologies in more integrated energy systems, there is a clear need to join up not just heat and power and transport, but should this include cold as well? “

The Institute said this insight has stimulated new thinking aimed at creating business and environmental value from the efficient integration of cold into the wider energy system, now known as the ‘Cold Economy’.

“The Cold Economy is based on a systems analysis and covers many aspects of efficiency, but crucially involves the recycling of waste cold and ‘wrong time’ energy – such as excess wind power generated at night when demand is low - to provide, through novel forms of energy storage - low-carbon, zero-emission cooling and power.

According to the Institute, a joined-up Cold Economy could deliver:

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved local air quality;
  • Increased overall system efficiency;
  • Lower overall cost;
  • New business and export opportunities and jobs for UK plc;
  • Greater opportunities for integrating renewable energy technologies.

It believes that developing a Cold Economy would likely require:

  • Systemic analysis that incorporates cold flows, including spatial and temporal balancing of dynamic needs;
  • Greater recycling of waste energy, including waste cold from LNG regasification, to supply cooling;
  • Using liquid air and other cryogens as energy vectors, to store and deliver cold and power;
  • Developing more efficient technologies, materials and practices.

The full potential of the Cold Economy is only just beginning to emerge, it said: “Could it develop into a global market in clean cold technologies potentially worth many billions of pounds and creating a wealth of new job opportunities?”

“With new technologies and thought leadership in the field, there is a real opportunity for Britain to build an R&D conveyer belt from invention to global market. But turning the Cold Economy from idea into reality will depend on joined-up thinking and collaboration across industry, academia and government to develop, test and deploy novel solutions.”

In conclusion, the Institute calls for planning and investment to focus on a joined-up approach on three key areas: R&D; manufacturing and skills:-

·        Develop integrated system level thinking and commercial solutions addressing identified market needs;

·        Understand the technology roadmap (research and manufacturing) to support the accelerated delivery of novel technologies that underpin the development, deployment, effective integration and optimisation of cold technologies for industry, buildings and transport;

·        Identify the apprenticeship and training needed to compliment the product pipeline, meeting in good time the needs of research, manufacturing, assembly, integration and after sales service.

Readers' comments (14)

  • This is all very worthy and greatly needed.

    The Institute calls for a joined-up approach and then goes off and acts on its own.

    The greatest failing of this industry is that we have too many trade bodies, associations, institutes, and learned societies all doing their own thing whilst calling for a joined-up approach.

    All the issues raised in this news item are important to this industry, but do we need yet another body looking at it? I don't know the answer to that. All I know is that I see lots of different bodies which are presumably being funded calling for investment in industry. Wouldn't we as an industry be better having some joined-up thinking for a change and get better value for money only funding one agency to do this?

    I recall a report last year by the IMechE on the Cold Chain. Very good and full of useful information I am sure but why on earth were they doing it?

    If our educational and research institutes are all going to compete with our trade bodies and associations where is the joined-up thinking in that?

    The future demand for cooling and energy contains a number of insights said this new institute. The only insight I got from all of this is why haven't they been reading the RAC magazine for the past 10 years?

    Will some one please knock some heads together and get this industry singing with one voice and not just a noise of individual voices all competing to shout louder than the next for more funding?

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  • Well said Jason.

    This news item is a shameless use of spin, so full of political rhetoric that it would be better featuring in a election manifesto than in RAC.

    Do they hold the RAC industry readers in such low regard that they think they play with such a serious subject?

    The use of the word 'Commission' is totally misleading. It suggests that this is some formal government backed body, as does the name dropping use of having a Lord on it.

    As Robin Teverson says on his own blog:" I was pleased to be asked by the University of Birmingham to chair a new commission they are setting up." So it is something that Birmingham University are doing with the aim to attract funding. Calling it a 'Commission' is intentionally misleading.

    The insights, the talk of joined-up approach all appear to be shallow and self centered.

    And Jason is right: do we need yet another academic forging its own path and dividing not uniting this industry? I am all in favour of the valuable research that universities undertake and grateful when they turn their attention to this industry but honestly, why can't it be better coordinated through the IOR or ACRIB? We have a professional body, we have a trade body, so we need this false commission and new Birmingham Institute of Energy as well? Frankly, they may do, but I don't think constant division and going off at tangents helps this industry at all

    Lets get back to basics and have a strong IOR and a strong Trade association. That is all we need if we are to ever be taken seriously.

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  • Spot on Jason.

    And Jay, they would call it a 'working group' but I don't suppose that they will actually be doing any work other than eating up funding. So I don;t know what they can call it. Perhaps committee would be better, although 'Commission' does sound grand doesn't it?

    I like Jason's comment about getting better insights by reading RAC magazine.

    But seriously, both Jason and Jay are right. These are important issues that should be addressed in a coordinated way. The forming of a new 'Institute' and a new 'Commission' which totally by-pass all that has been set up before doesn't strike me as having any intention of a group that believe in the "joined-up" approach that they claim to have.

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  • I can't help but agree with Jason. We have the same situation down here in Aus. I don't know the people involved in this news item but I can't imagine that Jason will receive any sort of meaningful response.
    Jason, you are asking all the right questions, and making all the right suggestions but don't expect anyone to reply or give you any credit. If it is like here, I am sure that they are listening but the lame answer that you received to your powerful argument about this industry being a lap-dog in another news item thread shows just how much your UK institutions are a lost cause and in need of a shake-up
    Good luck mate. A good read - well at least the comments are!

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  • Interesting. This news item is filled with facts but far too much spin as Jason and others have pointed out.

    One line caught my eye: "The full potential of the Cold Economy is only just beginning to emerge". Hmmm...I wonder where the person that wrote has been for the past 100 years?

    We know that refrigeration/cooling is a large user of energy and that improvements have to be made. Modern life is so dependent upon cooling that it consumes vast amounts of energy, so this is not sustainable. There, I know that and I haven't formed a new institute or commission yet.

    I think there is some substance here to the work that is being done but the political flavored hype just kills this for me.

    There are so many organizations around the world looking at this. There are even more people that could benefit from the improvement to their lives that cooling without damaging the environment can bring. But I get the sense that Jason nailed in it in his assessment. This new commission can only have been formed to duplicate the efforts of others and the existing work being done by others.

    Such an important subject being drowned in academic and political showmanship.

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  • Hi Jason, may be you missed the news, but the Midland Universities that include Birmingham have received £60m from the chancellor as part of his Budget statement

    Birmingham will concentrate on thermal energy the statement said

    It is little wonder that they have attracted a Lord to chair their 'commission' which will no doubt use up all their £millions and result in a report or two.

    Subscription to RAC magazine would have been fair cheaper and probably more informative

    There are inventors out there doing some excellent work. Pity this money has to go through the university and not to the inventor and to industry who could probably use it to far greater effect

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  • Good observation from Jason as always.

    Birmingham have a long history of teaching refrigeration courses but they have always appeared to be separate and go it alone.

    The new 'Institute' and 'Commission' are to look at the cold chain and clean energy. So it probably duplicates much of what the cold chain logistics associations are already doing and associations such as the Energy Institute. I would also guess that fair from helping people like ASHRAE, CIBSE, IMECHE. and the IOR, this new 'Commission' will pull valuable resources away from them. I agree with all who have said that this is important work but also question why it is being spent the way that it is

    Academia teaches the higher level refrigeration courses, and as such relies on funding to survey because lets face it, not that many students actually take that route. The higher the level the course the more likely they are to lecture to the next lecturer. In industry, the training bodies do a lot more good work at craft level but receive no funding for it.

    Jason, you have said many times that the trade associations and learned bodies are weak and ineffective, so don't sound so surprised when others try to fill the void. This will just be another ineffective and ultimately diluting body draining any cohesion there is out of the RAC industry.

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  • Well said Jason.

    This is another voice saying the same thing: "Refrigeration is important to modern life, etc." All true, and an important message, but just saying that, or repeating it doesn't do any thing constructive.

    People like Chris Vallis have been very active recently by actually doing something rather than just repeating the same old messages "how important we are, and how under valued". Chris was active and launched the Big Bang refrigeration awareness website and show stand, and Steve Gill launched awareness campaign on LinkedIn. Both acted as individuals.

    Behind the Birmingham hype and fanfare is an inventor - Peter Dearman- working quietly trying to make a difference. All these people should be applauded for their efforts and supported.

    It is the pride of this industry that we have so many creative people willing to push boundaries. Conversely, it is the shame of this industry that there are so many wanting to form committees, Commissions, and Institutes, just to jump on the band wagon.

    As Jason said, there is a void in this industry due to the weak trade associations and professional bodies. Let Peter, Chris, Steve and others like them take the lead and pull together like minds and we will all be the better for it.

    Until then, we will continue to be the noisy cats choir that this industry is.

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  • I wouldn't get too excited about this, or hot under the collar. The Birmingham Institute is due to produce a report by the fall. The report will not doubt tell us how important refrigeration is and how vital energy reduction is, and conclude that further research in this area is needed. That will be most of the £millions spent, with the rest being spent on securing the next batch of investment and funding.
    In real terms this will limited effect or benefit to industry or the existing trade bodies and professional institutes who can carry on doing their good work.
    This is a promotional tool for the Liquid Engine. By this time next year, the commission will have run out of money and have vanished back into obscurity, while the rest of the RAC industry gets on with making a real difference, with a real joined-up approach.
    Well done to Peter Dearman for being innovative, but it is a pity that you have been surrounded by such a political team.

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  • To answer Jason's questions:

    Do we really need this new 'Institute or Commission'? No, there are plenty of others out there already doing a similar thing, and have been doing it longer.

    Is this an important topic? yes, absolutely. The cold chain and energy supply are two of the most important issues facing mankind today. Did we already know this? yes, of course.

    Why do we need this new commission? To spend all the £millions that have been allocated to it. It would be embarrassing to all concerned if the university couldn't spend the money, so setting up an unnecessary Institute seems like a good idea to waste it. Probably need to spend a few £thousand on a logo too just for good measure.

    Important topic, but missed opportunity for industry yet again

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