AREA’s Marco Buoni believes there is a strong need to upskill the industry to use natural refrigerant-based equipment.
Speaking at ATMOsphere Europe in Berlin, Germany, the vice-president of AREA (the European Association of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heat Pump (RACHP) Contractors) argued that more technicians and engineers must be trained to use low-GWP refrigerants to meet the HFC phase-down objectives of the EU F-Gas Regulation.
Buoni said: “Half a million are certified for f-gas, those people need to be trained and upskilled for alternative refrigerants.” AREA is running the Real Alternatives for LIFE Refrigerant Emissions Alternatives and Leakage, an EU-funded project by the European Commission, to provide online and in-person training on low-GWP refrigerants.
The programme, previously based online and translated into 13 languages, will now run study visits (in five training centres in Belgium, Germany, UK, Poland and Italy) and train the trainer events (five in stakeholder locations, with 20 people at each).
“Half a million are certified for f-gas, those people need to be trained and upskilled for alternative refrigerants.”AREA’s Marco Buoni
Through online and in-person training, AREA and its other industry partners believe they have the potential to “reach 228,0000 employers, 26,000 RACHP installation businesses and 100 suppliers across Europe,” he said.
Volker Stamer, director of BITZER’s SCHAUFLER Academy, said that online training cannot be a substitute for live training sessions.
The academy, which provides in-person training on compressor and system technology for sub-critical CO2, transcritical CO2, ammonia and hydrocarbons, has “had 3,800 visitors in the first year – 80% of them are from outside Germany,” Stamer said during the training session.
Which path forward?
Stamer nonetheless noted that this training is no substitute for vocational refrigeration and air-conditioning schools. “On the path to natural refrigerants we need training,” he said.
shecco COO Alvaro de Oña, who also took part in the panel session, said it was not just a question of providing training but making people aware of the training already on offer. “Close to 200 companies provide natural refrigerants training in Europe,” he said, citing shecco’s Guide to Natural Refrigerants Training in Europe 2017.
De Oña noted more could be done by national governments. “There is no mandatory condition to handle natrefs and this is affecting number of people trained,” he said.
The Netherlands is currently the only EU country to require natural refrigerant certification.
AREA’s Buoni advocated introducing a certification similar to the f-gas one that most EU countries require for HFCs. “We will do natural refrigerants certification” in the future, he said.
Bafoday Sanyang of the National Environment Agency of Gambia hopes EU countries can come up with a coherent scheme soon. Once Europe has it, it will trickle down to Africa, Sanyang said.
The ozone officer from the Gambia said his country was “training [technicians] on CO2 and hydrocarbon management” for air-conditioning and refrigeration applications.
So far, his country has achieved much with the help of shecco, the UNIDO, GTTI, Centro Studio Galileo and gef:
- 50 technicians trained nation-wide.
- 20 technicians identified as ‘Super Technicians’ to train the trainers.
- 200 customs & other law enforcement agents trained on identifying refrigerants.
- 28 environmental inspectors & other stakeholders.
He said they were now working on creating a network of natural refrigerant suppliers and manufacturers. “We have to go to natural refrigerants. It’s the future,” he said.