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Now we have some clarity, time to prep for our future

So, it looks like we have a framework for the future of our industry, in the shape of the new F-Gas proposals.

The consensus from the experts, which you can see on p14 onwards of RAC February, is relief that the wider extremes of the European Parliament proposals have been negotiated away, but most of all relief we now have something to work towards.

Now that the alarm over having an HFC phasedown in the first place has subsided, the industry can get on with longer-term plans to move away from HFCs.

The most significant deadlines are felt by most to be far enough away for the refrigerant changes to require a measured change in strategy, rather than a panicked dropping of everything.

Arguably the most important compromise is the addition of a 10-year extension to the service ban, provided reclaimed or recycled HFCs are used.

Followed in the spirit it was intended, this will at a stroke enable the vast number of systems across Europe using R404A and other high-GWP gases to be wound-down or planned for conversion in a structured fashion, rather than forcing end-users into short-term measures.

And of course, it will enable the refrigerant suppliers to manage their stocks for the improvement of the environment, reclaiming the gases for re-use over a longer period, rather than having to destroy them, as was initially envisaged.

But I say ‘in the spirit intended’ as we mustn’t allow this 10-year extension to be some kind of a get-out clause from end-users to run their systems on R404A for as long as possible – we all know there are lower-GWP gases that can be used as ‘shorter-term’ measures, and use of the likes of the R407s and R134a will have an immediate positive effect on the environment.

But of course the new F-Gas regime will require everyone to consider alternatives to HFCs, so it will mean changes of practice, whether it be to HFOs or to naturals.

Certainly, as far as retailers are concerned, it is going to be naturals – whatever the refrigerant manufacturers may think, it is clear this is the way many retailers want to go, particularly now transcritical CO2 has become established as a practical solution. 

But what this will also mean is that we need to have engineers trained in working with the new gases. And crucially, we will need to have more engineers entering the industry, too.

In his President’s Speech, IOR president Graeme Maidment points to a future where the cooling industry is much bigger – based on factors such as the developing world’s need for refrigeration and cooling and the rising use of data centres – and underlines the fact that we have to attract more young people into the industry, to be sustainable into the future.

This brings me neatly to the launch of our 10th anniversary Cooling Awards on page 12 of RAC February.

This is where we celebrate the industry’s moves to a greener future, and it is also where we celebrate the young stars of tomorrow in our Student of the Year. 

But to win, you need to start planning for the future too, as that entry deadline comes around very quickly.

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