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RAC/Mexichem Energy Efficiency Roundtable - Part 1

Our latest Round Table debate considered Energy Efficiency, an issue guaranteed to provoke strong opinions – and our delegates from across the industry proved up to the task


Martyn Cooper – Managing Director Business Edge

Stephen Gill – Consultant, Energy Efficiency Solutions

Mike Nankivell – Business development manager, Space Airconditioning

Joachim Gerstel – European Growth Programme Manger, Du Pont

Martyn Cooper Regional Sales Manager - Mexichem

Stuart Corr – Refrigeration science consultant, Mexichem

Eddie Gittoes  – Managing Director, Arctic Circle

Colin Coe- Refrigeration manager, Morrisons

John Davey – Commercial director Harp International

Adam Bowey – Contracts manager GEA Denco

Rob Lamb – Sales and marketing director, Star Refrigeration

Julian Milnes – RAC Deputy editor

Andrew Gaved – RAC Editor

Does energy efficiency take sufficient priority in our industry?

Eddie Gittoes  We work with a varied customer base and it depends who you are working with. But within the current mantra of cutting back on capital investment, energy efficiency has certainly gone down the priority list.

Stephen Gill I don’t think energy efficiency is the main driver any more. Three or four years ago we were seeing feasibility studies covering what was the best energy efficiency approach, what refrigerant were they using etc and people were prepared to analyse the situation. But in recent years, since the recession hit, the approach has changed. they still want energy efficient plant, but it is much shorter thinking time and more cost driven. The term ‘energy efficiency’ itself causes problems. Customers feel they can tick the box, simply because new equipment is more efficient than before, not because it is the most efficient available.

Rob Lamb More and more customers are interested in having energy efficiency measures but at the right price. more and more people are prepared to look at the options and factor in the paybacks. There are companies who will set a contract budget and then give you a green budget to work from and give you a list of equipment – and it is all down to payback, based on how long the project is going to last, but it does tend to come out of a different budget. In a big organisation, the division that is actually building the project will have one priority, whereas the energy department will come in with other priorities and their own budgets. It does make things more complicated, but it does give you a route to get that energy efficient kit specified. But you find the guys where it their own business and they are paying the bills, they are the ones who want to reduce their pound per tonne of product and so they are very focused on energy. The challenge is to convert energy efficiency to their own language.

Mike Creamer When we are looking at chillers for an end user, they have the choice between a conventional chiller costing say £90,000 and an oil-free chiller, costing probably 120-130,000 . The numbers do stack up for a reasonable payback, but the accounts department inevitably goes for the conventional product. In some process operations I have seen a sea of water chillers – twelve chillers consuming £1.8 million worth of electricity in one case – and they haven’t a clue. They have no idea how much the chillers or the process cooling is costing, so without the knowledge, how can they influence what they are putting in?

Rob Lamb Data centres are a good example. They are massive users of energy, but often the company running the centre is leasing it from the developer who built it and the developer hasn’t maximised the efficiency because he can get the money back on the lease anyway.

Mike Creamer I have just got some results in from a data centre and you can identify about eight opportunities straight away for making energy savings – block condensers almost certainly inadequate, air flow, refrigerant charge, TEV errors. The thing is the operator believed he was running a well configured system, but you could improve the process cooling plant in such a way that you could reduce energy costs by 20-30 per cent.

Mike Nankivell It’s a message that needs to be put out to the commercial building sector - it amazes me that so many people are ignorant as to the way they operate their systems. or whether they operate them at all. I spoke to an air conditioning inspector recently who said he was amazed on a large project at how many systems were not operating at all across the estate – and the operator didn’t know about it.

Stephen Gill I have seen quite a few systems where customers have bought efficient components, such as chillers, but they are put into a system which is totally inefficient.

What is the impact of refrigerants in this?

Joachim Gerstel When you consider the importance of energy efficiency to the TEWI calculation the likes of BREEAM in the UK worries me– its assessment is concentrating on the direct emissions, rather than indirect. So it is all about the GWP and this is wrong I believe.

Stuart Corr It is energy usage that is by far the biggest contributor to global warming and if the system if efficient and well maintained, then the impact of the refrigeration and air conditioning system is minimised. It is not a simple metric like GWP – that is one small part of the global warming impact of the system.

Martyn Cooper Focusing on GWP means you are focusing on the refrigerant and the refrigerant manufacturer and what they are capable of doing. We have for the past 25 years operated in a highly regulated environment. HFCs were developed because HCFCs were going to be phased out because of ozone depletion. and at that point nobody cared tuppence about energy efficiency or GWP. The same with R404A – when R407A was brought out, no one was interested, even though it offered better efficiency and lower GWP. The focus on GWP means it is directed at the manufacturers again and we are looking at the fourth generation refrigerants and on a fairly narrow path. It is intensely frustrating to have this finger wagged at us over direct GWP, when the effect on the environment is the effect of the whole system, not just the gas.

John Davey We have had the same conversation for over two decades and arguably the focus on GWP is actually not a chemical problem but an engineering problem, because if they didn’t leak in the first place you wouldn’t have to worry about them

Eddie Gittoes  The F-Gas Review will let us see how bad the leakage situation is. But if you look at natural solutions, and you scale them down in size, there isn’t yet a cost-effective solution for those convenience stores at the small end. The use of integrals with hydrocarbons, which is where some are going, is actually less efficient – but it ticks the box.

Read Part 2 of the Energy Efficiency Roundtable next week

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