The sheer number of HVAC&R industry bodies in Australia makes for an interesting dynamic not seen elsewhere in the world. These associations represent the researchers, trainers, contractors, engineers, facility managers, equipment suppliers and installers, among others, based all over the country.

Accelerate Australia & NZ spoke to AIRAH, ARA, AREMA, ARMA, Refrigerants Australia, RACCA, ARC and New Zealand’s CCCA to access all angles, giving each organisation’s take on how best to move to a low-emissions future; and how to overcome barriers to wider uptake of natural refrigerants including training, safety, regulation and licensing.

At the ATMOsphere Australia conference in May, participants heard loud and clear that natural refrigerants are coming. Yet industry fragmentation and duplication of effort have thus far done natrefs few favours.

But despite these sometimes conflicting allegiances, Australia’s industry bodies share much in common: the need to raise training standards and awareness of the safe use of all refrigerants to produce a new generation of future-proof technicians; the push from some quarters for a nationwide ‘trade-based’ licensing scheme; the development of codes and standards to support natural refrigerants; and the collective requirement to move to a low-emissions future under the framework of new legislation in Australia to phase out HFCs by 85% by 2036.

Finding common ground

While divisions can allow confusion to reign, they can also present new opportunities for collaboration, argues Phil Wilkinson, executive manager of the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH).

“All of the associations are at a lot of different tables so there’s a lot of replication of effort,” says Wilkinson. “What we want to do to create better collaboration and remove a lot of that duplication of effort is to have a consistent message and work on the right areas first and ensure we’re listened to with credibility,” he explains.

To that end AIRAH outlined the reincarnation of its PRIME initiative, described as ‘a vehicle developed by a coalition of stakeholders to engage the whole industry to move to a ‘low-emissions’ future’. AIRAH has received funding to help establish a secretariat for PRIME.

In New Zealand, the Climate Control Companies Association (CCCA) represents employers within the HVAC&R industry in New Zealand, while its sister entity the Institute of Refrigeration Heating & Air Conditioning Engineers of New Zealand (IRHACE) represents individuals and employees.

Licensing schemes

CCCA chair Matthew Darby has helped establish a voluntary nationwide licensing scheme in New Zealand, incorporating natural refrigerants, to respond to training and safety concerns. He believes it is also incumbent on industry bodies in Australia to unite and drive the transition to natural refrigerants.

“It’s career-limiting to make enemies,” Darby says. “You don’t have to like everybody, but as long as you’ve got a common cause it’s easy to unite people. In an industry that is suffering for numbers and struggling to upskill and attract young people to enter the trade; right now to me is where we need to be as cohesive and collaborative as possible”.

The Australian Refrigeration Council’s (ARC) ‘environmental licence’ has administered some 80,000 licences to the RAC industry on behalf of the Australian government. However, the licence only regulates Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) and Synthetic Greenhouse Gases (SGG) like HFCs, not natural refrigerants. CEO Glenn Evans said the ARC’s membership base includes the key industry associations across Australia, and that the ARC undertakes compliance audits and sanctions licence holders.

However, some in the industry, including Australian Refrigeration Mechanics Association (ARMA) President Kim Limburg, Australian Refrigeration Association (ARA) President Tim Edwards, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association Australia (RACCA) President Kevin O’Shea, and AIRAH, have called on the government to implement a national trade-based or occupational licence that incorporates natural refrigerants.

For in-depth interviews with all these figures, click here to read the full story in the winter edition of Accelerate Australia & NZ.

Author r744