Montreal Protocol Plan to Phasedown HFCs a Win for AHRI and Industry
The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) has long supported a phasedown plan for hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants in the Montreal Protocol (MP), and applauded the news on November 5 that the parties will work toward an amendment in 2016 to include them in the treaty’s purview and working toward a schedule to phase down their use across the globe.
“Even as other MP signatories have debated the original North American Proposal to include HFCs, AHRI’s member companies—including refrigerant producers and original equipment manufacturers—have been proactively researching potential alternatives to HFCs to ensure that air conditioning and refrigeration manufacturers have continued access to appropriate refrigerants,” said AHRI President and CEO Stephen Yurek.
AHRI, U.S. government agencies, and energy efficiency advocacy groups have worked diligently for many years to include a phasedown of these chemicals in the MP. In preparation for that eventuality, AHRI in 2011 began a research program, known as the Low-Global Warming Potential Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program (Low-GWP AREP), to identify and evaluate low-GWP alternatives for consideration by manufacturers in making future refrigerant choices. This industry-wide cooperative research program is now in its second phase.
The first phase of the program concluded in 2013, and a second phase was launched to test additional alternative refrigerants, including those for use in high-ambient conditions. Tested product categories include air conditioners, heat pumps, dehumidifiers, chillers, ice makers, and refrigeration equipment. The program is widely supported by the industry to assess the research needs, accelerate industry’s response to environmental challenges raised by the use of high GWP refrigerants, and avoid duplicative work. All test reports are available on AHRI’s website, at www.ahrinet.org/AREP, and AHRI hosted a conference on January 21, 2016, in Orlando, Florida, before the start of the ASHRAE Winter Conference and AHR Expo, during which researchers presented their findings.
Prior to the MP announcement, AHRI reinforced its commitment to refrigerant research and development at a White House event. On October 15, AHRI attended an Industry Leader Roundtable, and provided a progress report on its 2014 pledge to invest $5 billion in research over the next 10 years for new refrigerants and HVACR equipment to support energy efficiency. During the event, AHRI committed to provide up to $1 million more for a collaborative, tightly focused research effort into how to safely use these refrigerants. Yurek reported that the industry spent more than $255 million in 2015 toward a 10-year, $5 billion commitment in R&D and capital expenditures to develop and commercialize low-GWP technologies, demonstrating the industry’s commitment to environmental stewardship. The yearly totals are expected to grow as spending moves from research into development and testing of equipment using the new refrigerants. In addition, AHRI established a committee to investigate flammable refrigerants that are being considered as alternatives to high-GWP refrigerants such as HFCs.
“Our industry’s refrigerant research and equipment development program has made great strides,” Yurek said. “We are now in a much better position to ensure development and availability of equipment in the event of a global phasedown of HFCs. Being proactive has paid, and will continue to pay, dividends as we move forward with the expected HFC phasedown.”