A webinar looking at sustainable cooling has warned that the UK and EU member states have failed to set out clear, purpose-made strategies to ensure energy efficient cooling is viable
European countries have so far failed to outline designated strategies to realise sustainable cooling that also factors in the importance of energy efficiency, the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) has argued.
These concerns have been raised despite various political commitments from governments across Europe to ensure a viable path to decarbonisation over the coming decades that will require new approaches to HVACR.
Andrea Voigt, director general of EPEE, said that more detailed plans focusing on both cooling policy and financial support were vital
Ms Voigt added that National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) required to be published by all EU member states to set out action on climate change and energy generation have made some mentions of HVACR initiatives. However, she said that these mentions fell short of a holistic approach to greener cooling and heating. She also argued for closer integration of the industry with energy generation and distribution strategies.
She was speaking during a special EPEE webinar bringing together several industry experts to consider the challenges and existing market barriers for sustainable cooling.
The session was intended to build upon some of the key conclusions of an EPEE white paper released last year that looked at priorities to successfully decarbonise cooling demand amidst an anticipated surge for refrigeration and air conditioning.
The EU’s F-Gas Regulation, which the UK is expected to remain a party to even after Brexit, is cited by EPEE as one key example of major regional legislation that aims to address the environmental impacts of cooling demand.
EPEE said that that the increasingly stricter targets to limit and eventually outlaw refrigerant with higher GWP were an important consideration for the sector, but they were still only one part of a larger challenge to create a more sustainable, energy efficient refrigeration and air conditioning industry.
Ms Voigt said that official European data indicated that the majority of carbon emissions resulting from the HVACR industry were the result of indirect factors such as energy use, as opposed to direct emissions from refrigerant.
Industry and government needed to consider a range of different factors to curb the carbon emissions and the energy requirements of cooling functions, she said. This could include reducing overall cooling demand through passive measures such as building design, as well as looking to better influence end user behaviour.
Examples of different behaviour could include adoption of smart controls that can monitor and automate cooling demand, as well as helping users to better understand sufficient cooling levels to ensure comfort.
EU directives such as Ecodesign, which sets out a legal framework defining energy efficiency standards for a range of technologies such as refrigeration equipment, were cited by Ms Voigt as important steps in driving more efficient innovation from industry.
She also urged industry to look even further at revising unit design and size to limit energy requirements from their use.
Other examples of behavioural change around improving energy efficiency was in encouraging or pushing for regular servicing of equipment and systems, while pushing for better end of life recovery of cooling equipment and refrigerant through reclamation schemes.
Ms Voigt said that EPEE was confident that political awareness of the importance of the cooling sector to ensuring national decarbonisation was improving. She added that even with this recognition of the challenges for energy efficient cooling, significant barriers were yet to be addressed concerning the need for greater investment to drive innovation and uptake.
Ms Voigt said another key concern was ensuring sufficient skills are in place across industry to realise meaningful change in design and commissioning cooling approaches.
New thinking on modelling
Other speakers taking part in the webinar included policy expert and consultant Ray Gluckman. He said that industry modelling used to determine the changing market and demand for HFC and refrigerant products over the course of 2020 would also begin to pay much more attention to energy efficiency.
Mr Gluckman said this change reflected a need to consider energy efficiency along with factors such as global warming potential that has defined F-gas targets and policy.
He said, “The comparison of direct and indirect emissions is vital for better planning. We really need policies to address energy efficiency in cooling.”
Direct and indirect emissions of greenhouse gas would therefore be factored into the HFC Outlook modelling tool that is overseen with the UN Environment Programme in collaboration with EPEE to support the aims of the Kigali Amendment.
Mr Gluckman highlighted a need for a strategy to better mitigate energy demand with key cooling functions in the drive for more efficient means to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions as required under F-Gas and the Kigali Amendment.
He said that initiatives would include direct action on curbing cooling demand through measures such as rethinking building design and insulation, while also pushing for doors to be fitted to retail chillers.
A push towards higher efficiency equipment, such as new technology making use of VSD compressors and improved system design would also be vital, according to Mr Gluckman.
Other avenues to energy reduction are likely to focus on operation and maintenance, such as the use of smarter controls and technology able to identify and even address maintenance issues before more significant system disruption.