More than half (56%) of European retailers have started moving away from HFCs to natural or low-GWP refrigerants, according to a new poll by component manufacturer Emerson and market research company ComRes.
The remaining 44% “either hadn’t started to make the shift [to natural refrigerants] or were unsure,” according to an Emerson press release.
The 56% who have made the switch have chosen CO2 transcritical technology (38%), followed by hydrocarbons and last by HFO technology as viable alternatives to HFCs.
“The challenge for the industry will be to balance this pressure with the need to take the time to learn about all the options available, and what it means for businesses in the long-term,” said Eric Winandy, director of integrated solutions, Emerson Commercial and Residential Solutions.
The Emerson and ComRes poll was based on feedback from 140 retail professionals (40 from France, 50 from Germany and 50 from the U.K.). ComRes performed the fieldwork for the study on the behalf of Emerson from 15th to 31st of August 2017.
The poll comes just a few months before the European Union’s F-gas Regulation is set to cut the quota’s for HFCs to 56% of the baseline, compared to the previous 63%.
The anticipated shortage in 2018 has already led to price hikes for the most commonly used HFCs, such as R404A and R407.
“While it is encouraging that European retailers are enthusiastic about the transition to natural refrigerants, it is concerning that there is still a lack of understanding of the upcoming regulatory changes.”Eric Winandy, director of integrated solutions, Emerson Commerical and Residential Solutions
In addition, a ban on HFCs with a GWP over 150 in multipack centralised refrigeration systems will enter into force in 2022 (except in the primary refrigerant circuit of cascade systems where HFCs with a GWP of up to 1,500 may be used). That makes it very difficult for European retailers to install HFC-only systems that can be used for the next four years.
But 40% of respondents were unaware of upcoming regulatory changes related to the European HFC phase-down.
“While it is encouraging that European retailers are enthusiastic about the transition to natural refrigerants, it is concerning that there is still a lack of understanding of the upcoming regulatory changes,” said Winandy.
The survey also asked the retailers what they viewed as the challenges and opportunities when switching to natural refrigerants.
Many of those asked (43%) were worried about operational cost – with the remainder mainly concerned about the safety of natural refrigerant systems (42%).
However, a considerable number agreed that the energy efficiency (48%) and environmental sustainability (39%) of natural refrigerant systems were good opportunities for European retailers.
To accelerate the transition from HFCs, 43% of the retailers said “depreciation schemes or other tax rebates” could help, followed by cost reduction of these systems (40%).
“Choosing the right system to replace HFCs can be a win on multiple fronts,” said Winandy. “It can help retailers see cost, operational and environmental benefits.”