BELGIUM: Pressure is growing on the European Commission from both industry and environmental groups to include alternative refrigerants within the F-gas training and certification process.
With the F-gas regulation (517/2014) currently undergoing a process of review, the European air conditioning and refrigeration contractors’ group AREA has restated its views in a new position paper calling for an extension of the mandatory training and certification scheme to include alternative refrigerants.
Anticipating that the phase down would result in a higher demand for alternative low GWP solutions, AREA maintains that it pleaded for the mandatory training and certification scheme to include alternative refrigerants at the time of the first revision of the F-gas regulation.
“Six years later, AREA’s concerns have unfortunately become reality,” the position paper states. “There are not enough contractors competent on alternative refrigerants to cope with the increased demand resulting from the regulation.”
AREA says this situation has become “a clear obstacle” to the achievement of the regulation’s full potential, in addition it has concerns of the safety risks inherent in these alternatives.
“The revision of the current legislation provides an opportunity to address the issue and integrate alternative refrigerants in the existing mandatory training and certification scheme.”
The association says it is preparing concrete proposals in support of this request.
This latest document repeats the concerns raised in AREA’s previously submitted stakeholder impact assessment consultation document and again calls for a clamp-down on the illegal trade in refrigerants to be one of the priorities of the revision.
AREA’s stance on extending mandatory training and certification to alternatives has support from other industry bodies as well as the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and “natural” refrigerants body Shecco. Apart from safety concerns, both industry and environmental groups also recognise that a lack of training in alternatives is acting as a barrier to their implementation in the market.
The EIA’s wide-ranging consultation document submitted to the Commission in the summer described as “irresponsible” the omission of mandatory training on natural refrigerants and technologies from the F-gas regulations.
requiring mandatory training on natural refrigerants and technologies as part of certification programmes in Member States that includes hands-on training on the relevant equipment;
“Some alternatives to HFCs are toxic or flammable or operate at higher pressures, putting the safety of untrained certified personnel at risk,” it added. “The lack of mandatory training on natural refrigerants also disproportionately impacts SMEs that do not have the capacity to set up their own training schemes and places the onus to secure training on the certified personnel themselves.”
Shecco said that failing to make training mandatory on natural refrigerants, such as CO2, ammonia, hydrocarbons and water, “had imposed an additional barrier to the uptake of non-HFC technology” and contributed to the lack of trained technicians and engineers.
“The updated F-Gas regulation should require all HVAC&R certification programmes established by Member States to include mandatory training on natural refrigerants and technologies, including practical training facilities allowing for hands-on training on relevant equipment,” it said.
While the Commission has not openly stated that they will not add alternative refrigerant training and certification, it is believed that there are concerns that the F-gas regulation, by definition, is only designed to legislate fluorinated refrigerants.
In an earlier response to the questions from the Cooling Post, a Commission spokesperson said that the review would look into the possibility of covering more extensively knowledge on the technologies that can be used instead of those based on fluorinated greenhouse gases.
“However, primarily a number of other regulations are addressing the safe handling of flammable substances, in particular the ATEX Directive, 2014/34/EU, and measures for the health and safety of workers at work (Directive 89/391/EEC – Occupational Safety and Health Framework Directive (OSH)). These Directives are undergoing constant review processes to be aligned with technology changes. Furthermore, to promote that training is being offered on climate friendly alternatives, the Commission is currently supporting several LIFE projects.”