Effective transition to low global-warming potential alternatives dominates first day discussions

Countries express concerns on barriers caused by climate variations

By Aditi Sawant
Published: Tuesday 21 April 2015


The week-long deliberations for the workshop on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) management are aimed at building trust in parties to make the technological switch to alternatives with low global-warming potential (GWP) alternatives.

In the workshop on HFC Management and the additional Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol that began on Monday, the parties have begun to express their concerns on transition in these sectors. The meeting is also expected to offer expert panel discussions on the transition. 

Despite the disparities in opinions of parties or countries on various technologies available across different sectors, there was some convergence on ways of transition and in terms of an agreement that there are alternatives and technologies that are available. But the question on how well this can be done still remains. Before the meeting began, the most popular cry so far had been the lack of technology. But with the day progressing, issues like gaps in information and technology also came to fore.

Variation in climate across the globe has implications on the alternatives used in different sectors and countries. Sectors like air conditioning and refrigeration that use naturals (which are low GWP refrigerants) to a large extent do not enjoy the same level of acceptance in regions with moderate and high ambient temperatures. This could be due to cost and efficiency concerns. Technological maturity is therefore the main barrier to the adoption of low GWP alternatives.

The curse that air conditioners bring

The flammability of the refrigerant was a highly-contended issue during the second session where air-conditioning sector was discussed along with heat pumps. It was demonstrated that naturals are increasingly used in this sector. However, the reasons for low rates of penetration were said to be the “apparent” high investments required in safety and design of these equipments. The industry experts stated that the industry is ready to make this switch once there is certainty that regulations will demarcate a clear direction towards adoption of low GWP and energy efficient alternatives.

Another recurrent issue was the need to strengthen the servicing sector. There was a sense for the need of training and certification of technicians involved in service and maintenance of products in the related industries. A set of presentations showed that naturals have higher energy efficiency but their uptake is limited due to restrictive standards that relate to the charge size (amount of refrigerant contained in an equipment) of flammable refrigerant. These standards stifle innovation. 

Revising building codes, safety standards and energy efficient standards to make them compatible with adoption of natural and low GWP refrigerants clearly emerged as a way ahead.

Warmer countries raise objections

Countries that showed resistance to these technologies were primarily the countries with high ambient temperatures. These countries contested that the efficiency of the system is reduced in high ambient temperatures due to increase in heating load (if natural refrigerants are used). Additionally, they claim that larger charge size of flammable refrigerants is a safety concern despite the existent case studies from different countries. It is pertinent to note that incremental improvements in energy efficiency and the accelerating pace of adoption of low GWP alternatives around the world are gradually taking place.

The last sector that was discussed during the day was the mobile air-conditioning sector. Alternatives are available. The barriers need to be removed to ramp up their uptake.

There isa long standing agreement to the fact that inability to timely regulate HFCs may render the entire accrued climate benefits futile. HFCs are widely used as substitutes to ozone-depleting substances (ODS). They are primarily used in the refrigeration and air-conditioning sector and their consumption is rapidly increasing around the world due to the increase of demand in the cooling sector.

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