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Its almost 18 months since the hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) phasedown was formally introduced in Australia. CCN checks in with government, trade bodies, wholesalers and contractors to get an update on progress to date.

By all accounts its been a pretty smooth transition for Australia, especially when compared to the European experience which has seen massive price hikes, gas supply problems and and a flourishing illegal trade in HFCs.

Australia has managed to avoid these problems probably because the phasedown path is a gradual one. It began last year with a goal to reduce HFCs by 85 per cent and continues through to the year 2036.

A more immediate target is to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by the year 2030 under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Prior to the commencement of the phasedown in Australia a regulatory framework was introduced with amendments to the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act.

It is estimated that the global phasedown will reduce emissions by up to 72 billion tonnes by 2050.

The HFC phasedown only covers imports of bulk gas such as in cylinders. It does not cover gas imported in pre-charged equipment such as air-conditioners or refrigerators.

The Federal Government's International Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Team director, Patrick McInerney, agrees the phasedown is going to plan.

“On the administrative side of things, import quota holders imported very close to their quota limits in 2018, as we expected,” he said adding that arrangements for non-grandfathered quotas for 2020 and 2021 will be decided by the Minister after the election.

To get an accurate assessment of how the phasedown is progressing the Department of Environment and Energy has contracted the Expert Group to update Cold Hard Facts 3 data for 2017 and 2018.

According to a department spokesperson the updated report will be available in August, 2019.

“I don't expect the data will show that the gas mix has changed much at this early stage, but I expect some equipment sectors will be trending away from high Global Warming Potential HFCs at an increased rate,” the spokesperson said.

“While it is very early days for the HFC phasedown, it is progressing the way we expected. HFC imports in 2018 were slightly under the quota limit and we expect a similar level of imports in 2019.

“The import quota reduces by 9.3% in 2020 and 2021 and we are planning to have quota allocations decided by the end of August 2019.”

Put simply, the progression of the phasedown is in line with earlier forecasts.

Ultra Refrigeration operations manager, George Nercessian, said the impact of the phasedown has been manageable.

“That's because its gradual so it hasn't been too difficult; but it hasn't stopped customers asking a lot of questions,” he said.

“Customers are asking about refrigerant types and which gases will be available in the future.

“We advise them that at this stage replacements are available and that we expect to see more solutions on the market using natural refrigerant technology.

“Right now we are using refrigerants that are available at the moment but ultimately the overall plan is to move to natural refrigerants in the very near future,” Nercessian said.

“We are also moving into water loop systems where the refrigerant charge is contained within the unit and cabinet hence a reduced charge and reduced risk of large leaks. C0² water loop systems will make a presence in the market as well.”

Nercessian said when selecting a solution there are a lot of factors to consider from plant location to energy efficiency and system performance.

“What can be offered is also heavily directed by the client's budget,” he added.

From a wholesaler’s perspective, Actrol marketing manager, Arabella Wood, said it is still early days in the HFC phasedown.

“The most important thing for us is to ensure we can support our customers as much as possible during this transition,” she said.

“We are taking a much more holistic approach rather than pushing our customers down a particular refrigerant path, which means we are offering a wide variety of solutions.”

Wood said this includes investing heavily in staff education to ensure customers are well supported with meaningful options.

To get industry's viewpoint on the phasedown, Refrigerants Australia, executive director, Greg Picker, provides a first hand assessment of the new refrigerant landscape in the opinion section of this web site.

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