31. July 2020 | Knowhow
Are you familiar with how buildings, data centres, cars, food and entire industries are cooled? Are you aware of how big the market for refrigeration technology is? Do you know what environmental awareness and sustainability have to do with refrigeration machines?
No? You’re in good company. The refrigeration industry is often overlooked by investors, politicians and the media. And unjustly so, because this industry, which at first glance seems inconspicuous, is actually forward-looking. To put it more precisely, it will play a decisive role in shaping humans and the environment on several levels in the future. In this blog post, we have compiled eight things you should definitely know about the refrigeration industry.
Accounting for a whopping eight percent of global CO2 emissions, the refrigeration industry is a significant contributor to global warming. Due to a lack of energy efficiency, over 17% of global energy consumption is used for refrigeration and air conditioning each year. In Germany alone, energy consumption for heating and cooling constitutes 50% of total energy consumption. This makes the refrigeration industry an inconspicuous but formidable contributor to climate change.
Forecasts predict that the Asia-Pacific middle class alone will triple to more than 3 billion people by 2030, which would correspond to about one third of the total global population. The weather there? Hot. And it will become even hotter in the future. Increasingly frequent heat waves and seasonal temperature rises are fueling the demand for cooling across the globe.
According to the Green Cooling Initiative (GCI) of GIZ Proklima, there will be around 9.5 billion refrigerators in use across the world by 2050. This equates to more than two and a half times than the current quantity. If the refrigeration industry does not make extensive improvements in terms of energy efficiency, it will continue to increase energy consumption by 90%.
Why does the refrigeration industry contribute so much to the development of the global climate and environmental pollution? Your air conditioning system could provide an answer to this question. Extremely harmful substances are used as refrigerants in refrigeration machines and air conditioners.
If we don’t replace common refrigerants and refrigeration technology, the annual greenhouse gas emissions of the refrigeration industry will more than triple by 2050. About one third of these emissions are due to refrigerant leaks, which heat up the atmosphere and pose a threat to both humans and the environment.
However, harmful refrigerants are not the only problem in the refrigeration industry. Synthetic refrigerants work in combination with refrigeration technology that is decades old and does not work in an energy-efficient manner. This leads to energy-intensive refrigeration processes that emit a lot of CO2 due to their enormous power consumption.
Heating and cooling accounts for half of the EU’s energy consumption. Two thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions of the refrigeration sector are due to the electricity consumption of the machines. The problem is well known from old household appliances, which consume much more electricity than new models.
It’s astonishing that the CO2 emissions generated by the aviation industry are a permanent topic of discussion in the climate debate. On the other hand, there is silence when it comes to combating climate change in the refrigeration sector. However, global decisions and local legislation are now changing that.
The Kigali Amendment initiated the global phase-down of harmful refrigerants and has been in force since January 2019. In Europe, the F-Gas Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 517/2014) has been implementing the phase-down since 2015 by gradually reducing the supply of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to one fifth. The legislation doesn’t only apply worldwide; it also affects all areas that use refrigeration or air conditioning.
What do manufacturers of synthetic refrigerants do when their refrigerants come into disrepute, are reduced by law or even banned? In short, they simply develop new synthetic refrigerants. These low GWP alternatives originate from the same family of HFCs that were banned in the 1980s, but have a lower global warming potential.
However, these are not a sustainable solution as they will no longer be in conformity with legislation as early as 2030. At the same time, the extent of the environmental impact is hard to predict from today’s perspective. Studies have already revealed that within two weeks of its release, the common refrigerant R1234yf degrades into the atmospheric degradation product trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), which also passes into our drinking water, for example. TFA is persistent, which means that it hardly breaks down in the environment. As a result, some EU countries began phasing out these new low GWP refrigerants as early as 2019.
This brings together many negative aspects of the refrigeration industry that need to be addressed urgently. And yet nothing will or can change in the daily increasing demand for cooling. On the contrary, if we want to achieve the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, we must provide everyone with access to clean and affordable refrigeration.
The refrigeration industry itself must therefore change. However, this is where the refrigeration sector differs from many others. Sustainability is not some impossible future scenario in the refrigeration industry – innovation is already here!
Read this blog post to discover how future-oriented players are proactively shaping change with CleanTech solutions!Read more
Natural refrigerants are as old as our planet. They are produced naturally, are freely available and some have even been used for cooling for thousands of years. This principle is also well known: renewable energies use the power of nature to generate electricity, whether in the form of wind, geothermal or water.
The refrigeration industry uses similar agents such as propane, ammonia, CO2 or water, which are of natural origin and do not have to be specially produced or extracted. Natural refrigerants are climate-neutral, environmentally friendly and legally compliant.
Why use synthetic refrigerants when you can use natural ones instead? For a long time, natural refrigerants lacked performance. At best, they could be used as a supplement on a small scale. However, thanks to many years of development, this challenge has now been overcome. Solution: innovative refrigeration technology.
New CleanTech solutions work with CO2, ammonia, propane or water as refrigerants and minimize CO2 emissions. The climate-neutral BlueZero Technology offers energy savings of more than 20%, resulting in significantly lower CO2 emissions in the energy required for production.
The most sustainable refrigerant in the world was probably used in ancient Egypt, namely water. Today, water as a refrigerant is becoming increasingly popular. No global warming potential, available everywhere, non-flammable, non-explosive, environmentally friendly and harmless are just some of the numerous benefits of using water as a refrigerant.
In addition, water is not only in permanent compliance with the law; it is the only safe refrigerant to extract. Even if there’s a refrigerant leak or it’s used incorrectly, water is safe in every respect – for users, humans, the environment and the climate alike.
On the one hand, the demand for refrigeration technology is growing rapidly as the world needs cooling more than ever. On the other hand, common refrigeration technology itself is heating up the world much more than other sectors due to its use of harmful refrigerants. More demand also means increased damage to the climate, humans and the environment. It’s a vicious circle from which we can only escape by switching to natural refrigerants and innovative technology.