A ‘light-touch’ approach towards F-Gas enforcement looks set to continue despite calls from industry figures to set up a national database to encourage compliance.
The stance taken by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) comes in the wake of a recent stakeholder consultation by the government department primarily focusing on the policing of the regulations in the UK.
It had previously revealed that the new EU F-Gas Regulation is expected to lead to nearly half a million new systems requiring a change in their leakchecking regimes, despite admitting only allocated two inspectors to police the whole of the new regime by the Environment Agency.
A spokesperson for DEFRA said: “It’s important we strike the right balance to ensure a high level of compliance without excessive burdens on businesses and are continuing to work with the Environment Agency and industry as we implement new EU Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases Regulations.”
Graeme Fox, president of contractors’ association AREA, hit back at the approach, calling it “ludicrous”.
Mr Fox said: “It is impossible for the two officers to adequately enforce the regulation. That’s not a comment against them personally, but of the ludicrous decision to provide no resources to enforce effectively.
“The one thing that would make everything run more smoothly would be a publicly accessible database of certified personnel and registered companies. It would address so many of the issues that the two officers have to deal with on an ad hoc basis, as well as giving them more control by making it easier for them to check compliance.”
This solution was echoed by Mark Henderson, commercial director at wholesaler FSW, who stated that Defra is not supplying the proper backing for enforcement.
“FSW would wholeheartedly support the formation of an independent database that allows us to check users of F-gases have the necessary qualifications.
“Defra, in its guidance note published 31 December 2014, appears to be passing the onus on F-Gas enforcement to the wholesalers without giving us the tools to do the job.
“All the wholesalers and the F-Gas accreditation agencies now have to maintain databases, when clearly it makes sense to have a central database accessible by all who need to. As a wholesaler dedicated to only supplying companies with engineers who are qualified to undertake the installation and maintenance work, a central database provides us with the ideal solution.
“This also makes it easier for Defra to police the regulations, as we would have to demonstrate that all our F-Gas users are on the register. As a responsible wholesaler this is something we are quite happy to do.”
A national database has also been proposed by ACRIB to Defra, who stated it would contribute to enforcement.
Mike Nankivell, ACRIB F-Gas implementation group chairman, said: “Supplementary to our formal responses to the questions posed, we did propose that a mandatory could mitigate some of the cost of compliance and assist in the enforcement process.”