Coalition government MP Bob Baldwin chaired a Ministerial Roundtable for the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning industry last Friday (October 16) on behalf of environment minister Greg Hunt.
The meeting was ground breaking because he called for what amounts to a new beginning for the development of the Ozone Protection Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act: the federal legislation that underpins the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Industry (HVACR) in Australia.
“A reduction in hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions is an important part of Australia’s commitment. On 11 August 2015 I announced that Australia will show international leadership and encourage all countries to agree to a global HFC phase-down under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Australia will fast track work to reduce domestic HFC emissions by 85 per cent by 2036, in line with the most ambitious phase-down proposals under the Montreal Protocol.”
Following a brief statement of support from Minister Hunt, Baldwin called for the review to be much more transparent and balanced. Baldwin called on industry to show greater leadership and collaboration with government in the development of this important work as Australian legislation is updated to reflect international agreement for reduced use of high Global Warming Potential (GWP) synthetic refrigerants (“the phase down of HFC refrigerants”).
Baldwin and the Department of the Environment recognised that the HVACR industry is involved in a fundamental change in technology wherein there is a need for a more open and transparent assessment of the trends in technology and the regulations that guide the industry to high energy efficiency and low emissions.
He recognised that the HVACR industry is fundamentally important to Australia’s economic performance and cited a number of opportunities for the Ozone Acts Review to deliver both energy efficiency and emissions reduction. He stressed the importance of energy efficiency in view of its importance in incentivising end user demand for low emissions technology.
Baldwin stressed the need for a more forthright treatment of the safety of the industry: citing the risks of synthetic refrigerant toxicity as a matter that needed to be addressed. He said greater industry leadership and government initiative are required to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in managing this transition.
He noted the importance of communications from government and industry given the vast number of people and organisations that need to be better informed. He noted Australia’s ongoing role of showing leadership in association with the international community to reduce the use of high GWP synthetic refrigerants worldwide.
From the Australian Refrigeration Association’s point view, Baldwin’s leadership represents an important new beginning. He made it clear that he and Minister Hunt are dedicated to working with industry to deliver more effective legislation that serves the national interest.
They recognised the phase down of HFC refrigerants (high GWP) and the phase out of HCFC refrigerants (high GWP and ozone depleting) as making an important contribution to Australia’s commitment to Greenhouse Gas emissions reduction.
In our view the historical consideration of HVACR regulation has been biased in favour of synthetic refrigerants and has ignored the important contribution natural refrigerants will make as replacements for high global warming synthetic refrigerants.
The fact is that the HVACR industries are comprised of two categories of participants: those that support synthetic refrigerants and those that support natural refrigerants. The natural refrigerants are hydrocarbon, ammonia, carbon dioxide refrigerants, air and water. They are referred to as natural because they are naturally occurring materials.
They offer high-energy efficiency and virtually no direct global warming impact. Synthetic refrigerants are a wide range of chemically synthesized materials that are not energy efficient.
Some synthetic refrigerants have a very high impact on global warming via refrigerant leakage and direct emissions; others give rise to formation of trifluoroacetic acid (TFA) that is toxic to aquatic ecosystems. Some synthetic low GWP refrigerants also produce toxic combustion products such as hydrogen fluoride (HF) and carbonyl fluoride (COF2) that are of particular concern to firefighters.
In the last twelve months it has become clear that the Montreal Protocol will be used to manage the phase down of HFC refrigerants worldwide. It is equally clear that natural refrigerants will make a major contribution as replacements for high GWP synthetic refrigerants.
Historically the fundamental role of natural refrigerants, their high energy efficiency and low emissions, have not been effectively recognised in the development of the OPSGGMA.
Baldwin made it clear that this situation has changed. As he put it “there will not be a winner takes all outcome”. He therefore implied that both natural refrigerant based technology and low GWP synthetic refrigerant technology will play a role. There remains a significant task to develop regulations that serve the national interest and support the global requirement to reduce global emissions.
We gather Baldwin will play an ongoing role in helping the Department of the Environment and the HVACR industry to address the rapidly evolving global and domestic opportunity for energy efficiency and emissions reduction.
He advised that participants in the Roundtable would be invited to participate in at least two more meetings to consider the options for amendments to the OPSGG MA. He encouraged all of the participants to attend public consultation events planned for Sydney and Melbourne in the near term.
The DoE has advised: “the Department is holding public information sessions in Sydney on 20 October 2015, Melbourne on 21 October 2015 and Brisbane on 22 October 2015. The sessions will be in the morning and are expected to last around 2 hours. Information on venues will be sent out in the next couple of days. To register for the information session and to receive information on the venue and time please send an email to [email protected]”
Whilst the documents offered by the Department of the Environment regarding the “Ozone Acts Review” can be viewed on the DOE website, we would caution readers against accepting this information at face value. The DOE explained that the various reports were developed by independent consultants to the Department and do not represent the views of government.
In our view much of this work is fundamentally flawed and will be subject to considerable criticism as the public consultation continues. If you are interested in seeing ARA submissions please contacts us.
Tim Edwards is President of the The Australian Refrigeration Association, the voice of natural refrigerants in Australia.