By all accounts the HFC phasedown has been progressing smoothly. In the following article, Refrigerants Australia executive director, Greg Picker, provides a first hand assessment of how industry is dealing with the new refrigerant landscape.
The first restrictions to the import of HFCs occurred from New Year’s Day 2018. By all accounts the industry is adjusting smoothly and without any significant disruption.
Given that the phasedown is designed to have a small reduction every two years, it is projected that the industry can adjust in an ongoing way without trauma.
Nonetheless there is, sensibly, a review of the phasedown scheduled for 2022 to confirm that everything is on track and to make changes if they are required.
We have done well to date. Refrigerant emissions are being successfully handled largely through the HFC phasedown and improved performance of equipment and tradespeople.
These emissions are down by over 90% over the last 25 years. Further, efficiency of equipment is markedly better than in years past – the Department of Environment calculates split air conditioners, for example, have improved by 60% over the last two decades.
The real question is how can the refrigeration and air conditioning industry improve its performance? There is more we can do, and we should do it. There are four actions that the industry can deliver by working with Government including:
1. Product bans. The industry is well aware that there are new technologies available. There are instances, however, where the technology is not being imported into Australia or where there remains a rump of older technologies being used.
Putting a GWP limit of 800, for example, on refrigerants in car air conditioning systems and split systems air conditioners from 2022 would help ensure the market obtains the best environmentally performing equipment.
2. Improved licensing. Today’s licensing scheme focuses only on HFCs and HCFCs. Other refrigerants are not covered, nor are requirements to maximise system performance for better energy outcomes.
Extending the current license scheme to cover these issues would improve equipment performance and increase tradesperson safety, which given the increased use of flammable refrigerants, is an absolute necessity.
3. Mandatory inspections and servicing. All of the requirements today are on the trade, while owners bear no responsibility for ensuring their equipment is operating efficiently and without leaks.
Another reform could require mandatory equipment inspection and leak detection where there is a significant refrigerant charge. The frequency of inspection would increase in line with increased charge size.
4. Improved enforcement and compliance of license holders. While the Australian Refrigeration Council (ARC) has been largely successful, some fine tuning by Government on what it is allowed could improve its performance.
The ARC needs to be able to both inspect workshops of unlicensed persons working in the trade, as well as inspect both installation and services to ensure good workmanship is being delivered. The ARC should also be able to better guarantee that those working with refrigerants at the end of life – such as car wreckers and companies that demolish buildings – recover and return refrigerant to Refrigerant Reclaim Australia (RRA) for destruction.
None of these ideas are outlandish nor do they require rocket science to develop or enact. They do require political will and dedicated effort. This industry has been very successful over the past 25 years in identifying ways to improve its environmental performance. We are well placed to do so again.