The Nordic Green Public Procurement Criteria, a project to mitigate the impact of f-gases on global warming, is promoting the use of natural refrigerants rather than HFOs in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pumps (RACHP) as the default option for public procurement in locations such as Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the Faroe Islands.

That was one of the messages communicated during the webinar “Green Public Procurement (GPP) of RACHP products – Nordic criteria,” hosted by the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). The webinar was held on October 23 as a side event to the combined 12th Conference of the Parties to the Vienna Convention and 33rd Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol.

The Nordic countries originally published a report outlining their procurement policy with regard to refrigerants in July 2020 in a document called “Nordic criteria for Green Public Procurement (GPP) for alternatives to high GWP HFCs in RAC products.” The report formulated green procurement criteria for 25 product categories that can be directly inserted into tender documents. Its overall conclusion: “Natural refrigerants are applicable for most RAC products at equal cost and can be used as a selection criteria in GPP.”

The report was the product of a green procurement project conducted by experts in public procurement and f-gases, including Tomas Sander Poulsen, owner of the Danish independent consultancy Provice ApS, and Per Henrik Pedersen, Project Manager and Senior Consultant with the Danish Technical Institute. They were supported by the Nordic Ozone and F-Gas Group, a subdivision of the Nordic Working Group for Chemicals, Environment and Health.

“As public spending normally ranges from 15 to 30% of national GDP, it provides a huge opportunity to drive markets towards innovation and sustainability,” said Tapio Reinikainen, Project Manager with the Finnish Environment Institute, during the webinar. “We cannot afford not to use the enormous purchasing power of public institution[s] in mitigation of global warming.”

Reinikainen noted that the starting points in evaluating procurement in the RACHP sector will be global warming potential, natural refrigerants, energy efficiency and the chemical risks in equipment materials, with the hope that the final criteria will be adopted across Europe and beyond.

These criteria informed the decision to favor natural refrigerants as a more prudent choice than HFOs. “The basic idea behind preferring natural refrigerant over HFOs is the precautionary principle, as recent studies seem to relate HFOs to TFA [trifluoroacetic acid], PFASs [per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances] and HFC-23,” said Reinikainen. “These would be quite critical things, and it is why we favor natural refrigerants in Scandinavia.”

These concerns were also reflected by five European countries – Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden – who announced on July 15 their intention to submit a joint proposal to restrict PFAS, including TFA and some HFC and HFO refrigerants, to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) under the REACH regulation by July 2022.

Wide-ranging analysis

Before reaching its conclusions, the green procurement project team conducted multiple analysis of tender processes, ecolabels and relevant EU Ecodesign Directives provisions, as well as market and technology assessments of RACHP sectors.

“We have found that we do have in the market already available green products, or they will be available in most RACHP sectors relatively soon, and these products are and will be based on natural refrigerants, are more energy efficient and cost equally,” said Poulsen during the webinar. “This makes it very easy to set up green public procurement criteria in the RACHP sector, and natural refrigerants can be a selection criterion.”

Natural refrigerants will be preferred over other solutions, except for a few cases where the lowest GWP threshold (likely to be less or equal to 675 GWP for 100 years) will be used as a proxy.

During the webinar, representatives of the Swedish Environment Agency informed participants of the ongoing work on green criteria for public procurement of chillers. The latter is likely to be informed by the Nordic Green Public Procurement criteria. Along the same line, a representative from New Zealand informed participants that Wellington intends to target refrigerants with high GWP in its strategy for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

“We have found that we do have in the market already available green products, or they will be available in most RACHP sectors relatively soon, and these products are and will be based on natural refrigerants, are more energy efficient and cost equally.”

Tomas Sander Poulsen, Provice ApS.

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