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Energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit – not HFCs


04 Jul 2011


Climate & Environment

Last week, the German Environment Agency UBA presented the English translation of its 2010 report on fluorinated greenhouse gases in Brussels. Andrea Voigt, the Director General of the European Partnership for Energy Environment (EPEE) called the report a “missed opportunity” as it fails to provide a correct overview of today’s refrigerant capabilities, their safety as well as their energy efficiency potential.

Under the title “Avoiding Fluorinated Greenhouse Gases, prospects for phasing out”, the UBA report aims to show ways in which HFCs can be replaced by alternative refrigerants in order to reduce emissions. However, it solely focuses on direct emissions emanating from refrigerants leaking into the atmosphere. Energy efficiency, which plays a major role in the EU roadmap for a low carbon economy, has only marginally been addressed.


Andrea Voigt: “We see the report as a missed opportunity as it fails to adequately address energy efficiency and safety. At a time when the EU is struggling to achieve its energy efficiency targets, the report does not even take into account the future minimum energy efficiency requirements set by the Eco-Design Directive. For example, a study recently undertaken for Lot 10 on air-conditioning units demonstrates that split air conditioners using CO2 refrigerants would not comply, even when using the best available technology.”


EPEE further expressed concerns about conflicting statements, some of which relate to safety issues. For example, whilst the report promotes highly flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants for air-conditioning systems in residential buildings, it advises against mildly flammable HFOs (HFCs with a low GWP) in car air-conditioning units.


“EPEE member companies use all types of refrigerant, from HFCs to alternatives such as CO2, ammonia and hydrocarbons”, Ms Voigt pointed out. “And all refrigerants, including HFCs, must be used carefully to avoid emissions. Therefore we support a global phase-down schedule for F-gases to encourage responsible use. Banning HFCs, however, will push industry to opt for alternatives, which in turn may perversely lead to increased energy consumption, safety concerns, and higher costs for the end-user.”


Dr Jakobs from the German Information Centre on Heat Pumps and Refrigeration, IZW, shared EPEE’s concerns. He added that it would be incorrect to see HFCs as the low-hanging fruit to reduce emissions and called instead for a greater focus on energy efficiency. As an example, he mentioned the supermarket sector, where waste heat from refrigeration plants can cover the total heating demand, thereby reducing CO2 emissions by more than 25%.


The UBA report was presented at a time when the revision of the F-Gas Regulation 842/2006 is in full swing. The Commission is currently analysing the effectiveness of the regulation and is expected to present a report on this by the end of September.


Notes to the Editor:

The European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) represents the refrigeration, air-conditioning and heat pump industry in Europe. Founded in the year 2000, EPEE’s membership is composed of 40 member companies and national associations across Europe realising a turnover of over 30 billion Euros and employing more than 200,000 people in Europe.  As an expert association, EPEE is supporting safe, environmentally and economically viable technologies with the objective of promoting a better understanding of the sector in the EU and contributing to the development of effective European policies. For more information please visit:

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