Europe Still Open To HFCs

I am writing in response to the article inThe News(July 26, 2004) titled "HFCs Are on Shaky Ground in Europe." HFCs remain on solid ground in North America and the same is true for Europe.

The conference you refer to was an information forum, which did not reflect the objectives of future European legislation, which is currently going through the decision-making process. The conference, organized by the food and beverage sector, rather focused on refrigerant choice and innovation.

The perfect refrigerant has not yet been developed as all have some impact on either the local or global environment. Each refrigerant has different individual characteristics that have to be taken into account when considering their long-term use, but common to all is that they have to be used responsibly and contained effectively.

If refrigerants are not emitted from refrigeration and air conditioning systems, they do not pose a risk either to their immediate environment, should they be toxic or flammable, or to the global environment as global warming gases, in the case of HFCs (F-gases).

The European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) is a strong supporter of the ongoing discussions in the Council of Ministers on the proposal for an EU [European Union] regulation on fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases), that will seek to better contain HFC refrigerants (i.e., reduce emissions, not ban use).

This important piece of climate change legislation will ensure emissions of greenhouse gases are minimized, energy efficiency is enhanced, and a freedom of choice of refrigerants is safeguarded across the EU. From the discussion to date, it is impossible to conclude that this future legislation makes for shaky ground for HFC use in Europe, it is rather the foundation for the responsible and sustained use of these gases.

Indeed, following the tragedy of more than 15,000 heat-related deaths last year in Europe, demand for air conditioning is on the rise. HFC units - commercial and residential - are not only playing a key role in comfort cooling and refrigeration, but more crucially in the health and safety of our society, as in the 2003 heat wave - in a region where HCFC-22 refrigerants have been phased out of new equipment.

I am the director general of EPEE, which promotes and encourages a well-informed debate within the EU institutions as well as outside on refrigerant selection.

As mentioned earlier, we welcomed the fact that companies involved in the food and beverage sector organized a conference focusing on refrigerant choice and innovation. Some of the innovative approaches discussed expand the refrigerant options that can be considered for use in a range of commercial refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.

However, there are clear limitations once the latest developments in HFC technology are ignored; particularly in respect of energy efficiency.

Innovation is not limited to those companies developing non-HFC technologies.

Newer HFCs are demonstrating improved energy efficiency across a range of refrigeration and air conditioning applications, and equipment designers are taking advantage of these gains.

Energy-efficiency improvements are the key to long-term sustainable refrigeration, irrespective of the refrigerant used. On average, over 80 percent of the impact of equipment on the climate comes from the C02 produced in generating the energy to power equipment - for small factory-sealed systems, this can be even higher.

By limiting the choice of refrigerants and not taking into account a holistic approach to all options, there is a risk that overall environmental gains may well be negated.

Europe is serious about its commitment to reducing CO2 emissions. It will not risk achieving this objective by turning its back on HFCs. In the end, Europe, like the United States, will choose a path that saves energy through the use of safe, cost-effective refrigerants, including HFCs, so that we can continue to improve the quality of life for our citizens at home and work, as we improve the environment for our children and future generations.

Friedrich P. Busch
Director General
Brussels, Belgium

(Author's note: EPEE is a broad-based group of companies, national associations, and European associations active in the European air conditioning, heat pump, and refrigeration industry. It represents businesses involved in the development and manufacture of equipment that rely on HFCs as a refrigerant. EPEE was formed in September 2000 to contribute to the development of effective European policies to reduce greenhouse gases from the use of refrigerants.)

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Publication date: 10/18/2004