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Ireland's only dedicated building services engineering journal

F Gas 'Compromise Agreement' Means Product & Market Development Can Now Proceed

Mike Nankivell

ACRIB, on behalf of UK trade associations and professional institutes, has welcomed the news that the European Commission and Parliament reached a compromise agreement on the revision of the F Gas Regulation at the end of 2013. Although the precise details of the phase downs, bans and other changes have not yet been released publicly and are still subject to ratification, the importance of the agreement is that it will allow legislators to move forward and provide certainty for the industry.

With many end-users already facing difficult decisions about replacing R22 equipment and trying to decide on the best long-term solution for new equipment, a clear position from the EU on future availability of HFC refrigerants has got to be a good thing. Had no decision been reached we could have faced a further two years of uncertainty in which many important investment plans could have been put on hold, the stimulation of the heat pump market seriously compromised, and end-users attempting to extend the use of old R22 plant beyond the reasonable life of the system.

A controlled phase down of HFCs and limited bans on specific applications – where cost-effective, proven and energy efficient alternatives are known to be available – is a sensible approach. It will allow the industry to continue to use the most appropriate refrigerant for the application in terms of efficiency, safety, cost and availability in both existing situations and when selecting new equipment.

The timescales will allow for improving our knowledge and skills in the use of alternative refrigerants, particularly those still under development. Other aspects of the regulation such as creating a recycled market for HFCs up until 2030 and encouraging greater legal responsibility of suppliers are also welcomed.

Summary of outcomes of the compromise                                                                                                 – New requirements on containment, use, recovery and destruction of HFCs, as well as possible changes to future training and certification;

– A gradual HFC cap and phase-down from a base of 2009 – 2012 down to 21% by 2030.

– Bans on the use of certain HFCs with higher GWPs in some new equipment such as domestic refrigerators (by 2015), commercial refrigeration (by 2020/2022), and low-charge split system air conditioning (by 2025);

– Restrictions on placing on the market certain products containing or designed to contain F gases;

– Some restrictions on servicing and maintenance of equipment using HFCs;

– Proposed date of entry into force of 1 January 2015.

I am satisfied that the outcome of the Trilogue process is the best the industry could have hoped for given that there were some difficult compromises to be made. Although still subject to a legal check on the text and final endorsement through a vote in the European Parliament’s ENVI Committee and Plenary Session in the first quarter of 2014, the agreement will provide the regulatory certainty in the refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump markets, which is so absolutely vital.

It also represents a consensus on a series of proposals that will not only meet the EC’s GHG emission reduction targets, but also justifies the consistent message that the ACRIB F Gas Group has maintained throughout its close involvement in the review process.

ACRIB met as a Board on 15 January to discuss the next steps and will be seeking further meetings with relevant UK Government Departments to share industry responses and determine the best approach towards disseminating the new requirements.

Meanwhile, we in the F Gas Implementation Group will continue to work with all interested parties to ensure awareness and offer technical advice on the impact of changes to the Regulation, once confirmed. We will also ask the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to hold an industry stakeholder meeting to explain the process of their implementation as the details of new requirements are finalised over the next few months.

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