BELGIUM: A European Commission report backing the use of propane in split air conditioners is said to have caused confusion in the market in the run-up to the F-gas review.
The report – The availability of refrigerants for new split air conditioning systems that can replace fluorinated greenhouse gases or result in a lower climate impact – published at the end of September suggested that the availability of propane (R290) made it technically possible to avoid F-gases in new single split air conditioning with a cooling capacity below 7kW. As a result, it suggested that a further significant reduction of the GWPs of alternatives to below 150 may be possible in small single split systems in the medium term.
The European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), representing the European refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump industry, says that the report has created confusion in the market with stakeholders wondering whether it reflected already a decision of the European Commission in the context of the overall review process.
EPEE insists that the European Commission report is just one of several reports required by the existing regulation to assess certain provisions – in this case the GWP threshold of 750 for split air-conditioners below 3kg charge size.
“In other words, it does not reflect any decision by the European Commission or any other Institution other than the fact that it confirms what has been widely known already: the market for such equipment has broadly moved to R32 and therefore the provision itself is not jeopardised by a lack of alternatives for split air-conditioners below 3kg charge size,” EPEE says in a statement released today.
EPEE also cautions about certain conclusions expressed by the European Commission: “The report states that it appears technically possible to avoid F-gases today in new single split air-conditioning with a cooling capacity below 7kW and to use propane instead. But first of all, it is not clear from the report how the European Commission comes to this conclusion, as no relevant impact assessment has been carried out. And second, “technically possible” does not mean that the use of propane is feasible from a safety and energy efficiency perspective, for all possible combinations of indoor and outdoor units and different piping lengths.”
The Commission’s report was largely based on the findings of a study conducted by the German environmental research company Öko Recherché.
The publication of the European Commission report was a requirement of the F-gas regulation (517/2014) but its timing has been questioned. Under Article 21 (4) the Commission was committed to publishing a report “assessing whether cost-effective, technically feasible, energy-efficient and reliable alternatives exist, which make the replacement of fluorinated greenhouse gases possible in new medium-voltage secondary switchgear and new small single split air-conditioning systems”. This was required to be completed “no later than 1 July 2020”. The report actually saw the light of day on September 30, three weeks after the window for stakeholder feedback to the review closed.
EPEE explains that the review of the European F-Gas Regulation is a complex process involving the three European Institutions – EU Commission, EU Parliament, Council of the EU – and stakeholders. The European Commission, in this case DG CLIMA, develops a first proposal which will then be debated in the Parliament and in the Council. At each stage, stakeholders are involved and at the end of the process, the three Institutions need to agree on a joint version.
As a next step, a public consultation has been opened which is now running until the end of the year. In parallel, Öko-Recherche has started its evaluation work and modelling which is expected to last several months and will again include stakeholder feedback. All elements together will form the basis for the European Commission to develop its draft proposal for a revised version of the F-gas regulation.
“The review process of the F-gas regulation has just started. Let’s follow the rules, evaluate carefully and do this step by step rather than jumping to premature conclusions,” said EPEE director general Andrea Voigt.
EC backs adoption of propane in small split air conditioners – 2 October 2020
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