On track: the F-Gas Regulation works
Europe is setting the course for the future of HFCs: in the coming months the EU Commission will have to evaluate whether the F-Gas Regulation effectively reduces greenhouse gas emissions or whether more drastic measures are required.
Entered into force in 2007, the F-Gas Regulation 842/2006 has hardly had the time yet to show its real potential. However, by mid 2011 the Commission will have to present a report which will be the basis for a possible review of the legislation. To that end, it will have to investigate whether the regulation has been fully implemented in all member states and to gain conclusive evidence on its effective impact on emissions. Even though this is a difficult task, at this early stage, the signs are encouraging.
It is perfectly possible to implement the F-Gas Regulation. A survey of the industry association EPEE shows that countries such as the Netherlands, Hungary and France have already implemented and gained comprehensive practical experience with the regulations' measures. Germany, the UK, Belgium and Denmark have also made excellent progress. In some countries, however, further efforts are required. For example in Italy, training courses for qualified personnel exist, however, so far there are no official certification bodies.
Despite these disparities, the European association of refrigeration contractors AREA draws a first positive conclusion: "In countries where the F-Gas Regulation has already been implemented contractors have observed a clear decrease in leakage rates", summarises Graeme Fox, AREA President. "Leakage tests are carried out more often, problems are identified at an earlier stage and, consequently, emissions are avoided."
Creating awareness at operator level remains critical for the success of the regulation.
Graeme Fox explains: "At the end of the day, the operators of the equipment are responsible for regular leakage control and logbook keeping. However, very often, they are not aware of their obligations." The AREA experience also shows that there are significant differences between the various market segments. For example, large supermarket chains and hospitals are generally fully aware about the F-Gas Regulation's requirements whilst this is not necessarily the case in small commercial refrigeration applications such as bakeries, butchers or flower shops.
The certification of personnel and companies is another milestone on the path of the F-Gas Regulation. Significant differences still exist between the EU member states. In some countries such as Germany, Sweden or the Netherlands strong rules applied already before the entering into force of the F-Gas Regulation. In France or the UK requirements have significantly increased since then. Still, in both countries three quarters of the companies are estimated to be certified already according to the new rules. In Italy and Ireland, however, no certification has existed so far, and in Poland new rules are expected to enter into force only this year. Despite these substantial differences, Graeme Fox underlines the positive impact of the Regulation on the contracting sector's expertise level: "Thanks to the F-Gas Regulation the number of specialized schools and training courses has clearly increased in many countries. This is a good sign and indicates that the knowledge level in the sector is continuously increasing. Bureaucracy and the differences between the countries, however, remain major stumbling blocks. For example, the cost for the certification of a company varies between zero and 3,000 Euro per year according to the country!"
Control is a vital element of any legislation's success. The F-Gas Regulation is no exception to this rule. However, once again, some member states apply very strict rules whilst others are rather lax. For example in France, controls have been carried out since 2009 and "delinquents" can expect fines from 1,500 Euro up to 75,000 Euro and in some cases even up to 2 years in prison. In Finland, Portugal and Spain, however, neither fines nor control systems exist. In Germany, the ChemKlimaSchutzV defines control mechanisms but the number of controls has been indicated to be insufficient - which is certainly due to the lack of control authorities. In Poland, on the other hand, contractors are reported to be controlled too often and operators not often enough. These examples clearly show that harmonization related to control mechanisms and fines is urgently required and would probably also accelerate the implementation of the regulation.
The sector is on track, even though it is still too early to effectively measure the regulation's success in terms of emission reduction. Common sense however dictates: if leakage controls are carried out as stipulated by the regulation, if the "cowboys" disappear sooner or rather than later and if the operators take their responsibility seriously the results will be obvious and positive. Harmonized and actually implemented control mechanisms in the EU together with hefty fines will most certainly accelerate the whole process.