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‘Clean cold’ congress closes with demand for systemic cooling rethink

Event warns over lack of skills for adopting lower GWP gas and the need for a broader approach to cooling where decarbonisation is viewed as just one vital part of wholesale industry rethink

A current lack of skills in the use and implementation of low GWP refrigerant and systems has been identified as one major challenge to transitioning to cleaner and less carbon intensive cooling during world’s first ‘clean cold’ congress in Birmingham this week.

Thomas Tomski, Emerson Commercial and Residential Solutions vice president of marketing, said during the congress that the European Commission had raised fears about a skills gap over lower GWP gas, despite EU regulation introduced to ensure a switch to these products.

Mr Tomski said, “We need more investment in training engineers on the installation and maintenance of cooling systems in order to ensure they are sustainable.”

“When choosing a new refrigeration system, retailers should also consider integral systems for accelerated roll-out. Since these systems are self-contained, easy to install and remove, and require little maintenance, they offer a solution where skills is a challenge.”

With the congress closing today, Professor Toby Peters from the University of Birmingham has argued that cooling presents significant challenges to decarbonisation in a range of areas such as food supply.  However, he warned that energy efficiency alone would not be a sufficient fix to address global challenges around the environmental impact of cooling.

The first congress event is intended therefore to look at systematic changes to address a predicted surge in global energy demand for cooling that could potentially double by 2050.

Professor Peters has argued that an estimated 9.5 billion cooling appliances that are anticipated to be in use by 2050 could see energy demand for cooling climb to 7,500 Terawatt Hours (TWh) from the 3,900 TWh recorded last year. He argued there predictions were based on the notion that more efficient cooling technologies are introduced.

Professor Peters argued that carbon emissions were one important part of the need to review the cold chain in its entirety to prevent loss of life, as well as food loss and spoiled medicines in hotter climates.

Professor Peters said during the event, “If we are to sustainably deliver cooling for all, we must stop thinking that green electricity and technology efficiency can meet the demand alone. Unless we think thermally, not just electrically, we are sitting on a carbon time-bomb.

“The challenge is how to embed this approach quickly enough to avoid investment in conventional equipment that lock in cooling emissions for years or decades.”

Inaugural congress

Over 100 experts working around the world in the fields of cooling and energy efficiency, both in terms of systems design and policy, have gathered for the clean cold congress, which builds on the university’s work with experts and stakeholders form the Indian states of Haryana, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh.

Pawanexh Kohli, chief executive at the National Centre for Cold-chain Development in India, was among the event’s main speakers and discussed the challenge of growing demand for cooling, particularly for food chains, where an estimated 200 million tonnes of produce is lost each year.

Mr Kohli said, “Feeding the planet is not just the business of farmers. Refrigerated logistics is critical to managing our food resources, expanding market frontiers and reducing food loss.”

“At the same time we also need to reduce the impact of our logistics on our environment, and that requires international collaboration. We need innovation today, to develop the sustainable cold chain of tomorrow.”

Organisers have said that this week’s congress, which is intended to become part of a wider series of international events, included panel discussions and workshops intended for end-users, NGOs, as well as industry.

Speakers have included Araner commercial manager Guillermo Martinez, Postharvest Education Foundation president Dr Lisa Kitinoja and Professor Richard Williams, principal and vice-chancellor of Heriot-Watt University.

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