Mike Nankivell, marketing director for the UK Daikin distributor Space Airconditioning plc, comments on recent developments with the F-Gas regulation review.
The European Parliament recently approved the final text on revisions to the F-Gas regulation by a significant majority, endorsing political agreement reached at the end of 2013. The final stage in the process, prior to the text being published in the Official Journal, was for the Council of Ministers to give their approval. This took place on the 14 April. Numerous statements and press releases have been published welcoming the final “rubber stamp” and the signals it sends about “commitments to tackle climate change”.
But what do we really know about what this will mean for technicians involved in installing, servicing and maintaining equipment containing or designed to contain F-Gas refrigerants? There remains quite a lot of detail to be resolved, in spite of political agreement having been reached.
We know that the phase-down in the supply of HFC refrigerants will begin in 2016/17, reducing availability in stages until 2030 when HFCs or F-Gases will be capped at 21% of 2009-2012 volumes. The allocation mechanism for supply quotas still needs to be clarified. Refrigerant suppliers are uncertain about the quantities they will each be able to put on the market. This is a real priority for legislators to ensure that the phase down is achieved successfully. Restrictions in supply over time will of course lead to increased prices, but it is worth remembering that recycled refrigerants will also be available and that a supply virgin HFC refrigerant will continue to be available even after 2030.
On training and certification those countries, like the UK, where qualifications have been in place for some time, will not need retraining and reassessment for those holding certificates that have no expiry dates. However, anyone undergoing training after 1 January 2015 will need to learn and be tested on the changed F-Gas requirements and this will include “information” on alternative refrigerants, although the form and depth of that information is still to be defined.
There will be changes in how F-Gas systems are labelled, on how you work out which systems require less frequent leak checking and which more; on who can purchase HFC refrigerant or equipment designed to contain HFC refrigerant and most critically there will be a series of fairly complicated bans introduced on the use of certain higher GWP HFC refrigerants in certain applications. But there is still some clarification awaited from Europe on certain definitions, and on how exemptions might be obtained, that mean introducing all these new requirements by 1 January 2015 will be something of a challenge. The Commission is known to be drafting guidance on interpretation.
UK Industry representatives have recently taken part in meetings with Defra officials who will be drafting GB enforcing regulations over the coming months. The first included a wide spectrum of companies in the stationary RAC and HP sector and the second smaller meeting looked at how industry and government will work together to help disseminate information about changes.
The first step in this information and dissemination programme was a Defra organised stakeholder meeting held on 14 April in London – coincidentally the same day that the European Council of Ministers approved the text currently working its way through the European legislative system.