HVACR industry associations, manufacturers, end users, and fluorocarbon producers met with senior White House officials to show support and voluntary commitments to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Industry coalition the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy and the White House hosted the event Sept. 16 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) asked the government to set the objectives and work together with the industry. “The biggest thing we wanted to highlight in this discussion is this industry is already taking the lead and moving forward very aggressively to look at alternatives, conducting research and development on this issue and coming out with products,” said Stephen Yurek, president and CEO, AHRI.

AHRI representatives said the HVACR industry is committing $5 billion over the next decade to research and develop new refrigerants and equipment to help accomplish the phasedown.

“We are just asking for two things. First, there is coordination between DOE [U.S. Department of Energy and EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] timelines as it relates to efficiency regulations and refrigerants so we don’t have them extend us in different directions or waste investments based upon differences in decisions from those two agencies,” Yurek said. “Second, we need government to set a global objective that we can support. They set the objective and let the industry that is committed to innovate start innovating and reach those requirements.”

The industry is also hoping the EPA looks into adding HFCs into Section 608 of the Clean Air Act, which covers requirements related to the enforcement of anti-venting rules.

Global Phasedown

Those in attendance at the event included Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, and State Department Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern. The event was sponsored by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and hosted by John Podesta, counselor to the president.

“Our industry has been promoting a market-based global phasedown of HFC refrigerants for a number of years,” said Robert Wilkins, vice president of public affairs, Danfoss, and chairman of the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy. “We have not been able to get legislation passed in Congress. Our industry group asked what we could do to move this ball forward. We decided to propose voluntary industry commitments to the phasedown of HFC refrigerants. Everyone with the administration was very receptive today. It helps DOE and EPA to understand some of the challenges the industry is facing and where we can use their support to help facilitate further progress.”

Wilkins pointed out that two-thirds of HFC refrigerants are used to service existing equipment in the field, and it is an obvious place to focus when attempting to reduce HFC emissions.

Representatives with the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy said the industry is committed to an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

“That is the goal we are asking for. If they set that for us, we are going to make the commitment to research and develop products to meet that goal. We need to know what we are aiming for. We want predictability,” Yurek said.

Yurek touted the positive, proactive efforts by the HVACR and water heating industries in energy conservation and environmental stewardship. He said that, in the late 1980s, the industry supported international efforts to protect the ozone layer by developing non-chlorine-containing refrigerants and agreed to an aggressive timetable to phase out ozone depleting chemicals while steadily improving the energy efficiency of that equipment.

He noted that, with no encouragement from government, AHRI and its member companies launched the Low-Global Warming Potential Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program (Low-GWP AREP) in 2011. The intent of the program is to evaluate different refrigerants in several applications. The program’s first phase was completed in 2013, and the second phase is currently underway.

Ed Purvis, executive vice president and head of Emerson Climate Technologies Inc., said, beyond government directives and standards, the HVAC industry has been demonstrating stewardship that makes a difference.

“The scope of our new initiatives and investments in multiple channels, products, and market verticals demonstrates Emerson’s leadership in environmental stewardship, efficiency, and innovation,” he said. “This industry, as a whole, has a proven track record of collaborating with the government while working with our industry partners to determine the best sustainable practices going forward to meet growing customer demands.”

Codes and Standards Task Force

During the event, Danfoss announced its commitment to convening and facilitating an on-going Codes and Standards Task Force, which will set out to define a roadmap that will accelerate implementation of low-GWP refrigerants.

“State and local fire and building codes are major barriers to the broad deployment and adoption of low-GWP refrigerants in the U.S.,” explained John Galyen, president, Danfoss North America. “These codes often prohibit the use of flammable or even mildly flammable refrigerants, even in very small amounts less than a typical aerosol spray can. Since they are developed and mandated locally, across hundreds or thousands of jurisdictions, codes are difficult to change and create an effective obstacle to manufacturers offering products with low-GWP refrigerants that may be flammable or mildly flammable.

“Much work also is needed to modify underpinning national model codes and standards before local standards can be changed,” Galyen continued. “The issue is complex and requires a sequential nature of modifying standards and codes, as well as broad industry training.”

The task force, facilitated by Danfoss, is composed of a broad cross-section of experts from the industry, environmental nonprofit organizations, the EPA, UL, fire marshals, and other stakeholders with an interest in collaboration and defining the path forward.

Since July, Danfoss has hosted three meetings to launch the Codes and Standards Task Force, with the most recent event taking place Sept. 12. “I am pleased the administration was interested in hearing what they can do to better support us. It is great that they will take a seat, be a voice at the table, and collaborate with our industry,” Galyen said. “There is a need for contractor education on flammable and mildly flammable refrigerants.”

If the reaction coming out of the White House event is any indication, it seems government and industry are meshing rather well.

“We believe that the proven, effective model of the Montreal Protocol is the most effective tool for harnessing these innovations and reducing the use of HFCs on a coordinated global basis,” said Kathryn K. McCord, global business director, DuPont Fluorochemicals. “We appreciate the administration’s efforts to advance an amendment to bring HFCs under the Montreal Protocol, which provides a proven, consistent, and well-understood framework to allow the global community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with HFCs while ensuring a smooth transition to more sustainable products.

Industry Commitments

Additional commitments made by members of the HVAC industry included:

Arkema committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its operations by an additional 30 percent by 2020, as well as its net energy purchases by 1.5 percent annually, on average, through the year 2020.

Carrier Corp. committed to pursue the commercialization of HFC-free refrigerants in road transportation refrigeration by 2020, building on its experience with HFC-free carbon dioxide refrigerant in marine-container and food-retail refrigeration.

• DuPont announced its new products are anticipated to reduce greenhouse gas content of refrigerants by some 90 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in the U.S., and 245 million tons worldwide by 2025, reducing greenhouse gases by a similar amount.

• Emerson Climate Technologies Inc. announced it will launch a full line of compressors and flow and electronic controls, approved with three nonflammable low-GWP HFCs. These refrigerants will be significantly lower in GWP. Emerson also plans to expand its full line of Scroll Compressors for commercial refrigeration use in supermarkets and convenience stores. In July 2015, Emerson will expand its offerings for use with carbon dioxide, a non-HFC and energy-efficient refrigerant, with its complete line of compressors, flow controls, discrete controls, and system electronic controls.

Goodman Mfg. Co. committed to manufacture a full product line of low-GWP air conditioners and/or heat pumps after completion of working with the EPA and other stakeholders to permit low-GWP refrigerants in both building codes and the EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program.

Honeywell Intl. Inc. plans to transition the majority of its high-GWP HFC production to low-GWP production. These changes will reduce Honeywell’s annual production of high-GWP HFCs by nearly 50 percent on a carbon dioxide equivalent basis prior to 2020, with a cumulative elimination of more than 350 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2025. To achieve this goal, Honeywell anticipates spending a total of more than $880 million on research and development.

Johnson Controls Inc. committed to spend $50 million over the next three years to develop new products and improve and expand its existing low-GWP portfolio, of which a significant portion of that investment will address products that traditionally use HFC refrigerants.

Publication date: 9/29/2014

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