New F-Gas Regulations and Brexit – a double whammy for refrigeration?

23 Jan 2018

As part of the European Union’s efforts to tackle climate change, the new F-gas regulations call for the use of lower GWP refrigerants in order to meet the goals set by the EU for 2020.

A ban on the servicing of high GWP equipment will come into effect at the same time so the industry has a great deal of work to do in preparation for the switch-over. There’s no time for complacency, but the switch is complex and far from straight-forward – particularly at a time when we are working towards Brexit.

R0404A refrigerants will be banned in 2020 and replaced with lower GWP gases, but many installers and customers are confused by what they see as conflicting information and a lack of consistency surrounding the new requirements.

Dr Patrick Amrhein, Marketing Director of Honeywell expressed widespread concerns from the manufacturers. He said, “the industry hasn’t been switching to GWP alternatives fast enough,” and Danfoss Head of Public and Industry Affairs, Torben-Funder-Kirstensen voiced similar concerns about the situation: “It looks as if the industry is split 50/50 on whether the change needs to happen now or in 2020.”

No time like the present

If the deadline is to be met, it is broadly agreed that changes need to be made now. Manufacturers are altering their equipment to comply with the new legislation. Confusion over the pace of change, a cut in production of the higher GWP gases and an increased demand for the new lower GWP gases, means the costs of refrigerants are spiraling leaving both customers and installers in a precarious position.

The new lower GWP gases are substantially different to the current gases and installers will need training to use both the new gases and new equipment, safely. 

And what about Brexit?

On top of this, in the UK, we have the added complication of Brexit. During a recent investigation by the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, Refcom has urged the UK government to continue to comply with the EU’s F-Gas regulations as closely as possible. Bodies such as BESA and The Federation of Environmental Trade Associations (FETA) have also been pushing for the UK to follow the EU’s directive to curb emissions when we’re no longer an EU member state.

With manufacturers, suppliers and end users having already spent time and money on ensuring compliance, FETA’s Commercial Manager, Martyn Cooper, argued for close regulatory alignment over the switch to the new regulations so that UK and EU suppliers could continue to support each other, without putting either party at a disadvantage. Stakeholders of the committee discussed the need for reciprocal arrangements to keep current phase-down commitments on track over the next few years.

In commenting on the requirements for the industry to support the changes in legislation and the introduction of the new gases, BESA’s Graeme Fox drew attention to the real pressure on our industry’s skills base. “Contractors need to be able to work with alternatives,” he said, “some of which are mildly flammable and many of which are not suitable for retrofitting in existing systems – this means they need to undertake further training.”

He went on to stress the importance of following EU plans, suggesting that rather than amending current F-Gas targets or regulations, the government should prioritise enforcement and compliance. Graeme asked that more resources are made available to the Environment Agency enabling them to better police F-Gas regulations. He welcomed the possibility of introducing civil penalties for possible infringements.

The refrigeration and air conditioning industry is very complex one and responding to change isn’t easy, but a considered and co-operative approach will surely make things easier.

For information on the latest F-gas qualifications, please click here