RAC Magazine’s Andrew Gaved shares his top three priorities for NR training programmes

By Janet Thompson, Apr 11, 2013, 12:18 5 minute reading

hydrocarbons21.com met with Andrew Gaved, editor of RAC Magazine, to talk about the RAC Cooling Industry Awards and the status of training standards in the field of natural refrigerants. Mr. Gaved spoke about the progress and problems in this area and highlighted what he thought were the three most important priorities for the development of training programmes.

hydrocarbons21.com: There were five Cooling Awards for natural refrigerants in 2012, if you include the Gold Award for Bob Arthur. Considering the awards, what is your opinion of the natural refrigerants market in Europe?

Andrew Gaved: I think that every major supermarket is looking at natural refrigerants. Everyone is at least trialing systems with natural refrigerants and most are pursuing a policy involving them. The challenge for the UK industry is getting the smaller companies, smaller end-users, to see the benefit. They are often the slower ones to react to trends.

One of the additional benefits of the awards is that they give greater visibility to the people who are making the running in environmentally friendly cooling. People do look up to what the main supermarkets are doing and it filters down through the rest of the industry. The challenge is to accelerate that. This is one of the things we’re trying to discover ourselves: how to get the message through more quickly to the smaller companies and those with a lower public profile.

hydrocarbons21.com: Several associations, organisations and end users, have developed training programmes for their employees. How do you think we could promote this throughout Europe and maybe even standardise the training programmes?

Gaved: We think the market, namely the big end-users, such as the big supermarkets, can accelerate take-up – by saying that ‘if we are to have these systems in our supermarkets, we must do something to help the training programmes come on’. As for a European training standard, that is trickier because every country has its own system and processes concerning the refrigerant, so I think it probably has to be done on a national level initially. But there is nothing wrong with having standards or guidelines that can be adhered to. AREA (the European association of refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RACHP) contractors) has talked about it and they’ve just put out guidelines for training in hydrocarbons across Europe. In the UK, the British Refrigeration Association has its own guidelines. But it’s filtering that down and it’s getting each nation to follow it up that is the problem.

hydrocarbons21.com: Is this a bottom up process?

Gaved: Yes, it’s the big customers that drive everything, and that includes training. If, for instance, in France, you could get Carrefour to make a big statement about how nobody will be allowed on their sites unless they are trained properly in CO2 and hydrocarbons, it might do something. Again, in the UK, there are moves from the major supermarkets to insist that every engineer should show the ACRIB Skillcard, to get on a site. Maybe you could have that across Europe, a European skills card.

hydrocarbons21.com: When it comes to switching refrigerants, a lot of end-users and retailers have a “wait and see” attitude. Do you have a solution to overcome this problem?

Gaved: That’s how the market works unfortunately. With F-gas, the EC is producing a regulation that applies to the whole of Europe, but the way that each country actually implements it is very patchy. There is no easy solution, but there is good news. Referring back to the Cooling Awards, we always say it is about being environmentally progressive and that doesn’t automatically mean naturals, at the moment - we have to take note of where the industry is at. But although some of the winners are still not naturals, they are nevertheless all using energy more efficiently than before. They are on their way. We’re taking people at each level and bringing them on. It’s trying to encourage everybody to take the same steps. Perhaps to encourage people, a reader of hydrocarbons 21 would like to sponsor an award specifically for the best natural refrigerant project!

hydrocarbons21.com: What are the three most important things in designing a training programme?

Gaved: You need to have standards that can be applied across all sectors, for commercial refrigeration as well as industrial refrigeration. Secondly, you have to have something physical, like a card, so the end-user customer can say ‘without this card, without this proof of competence, you can’t come onsite.’ And the third thing is that somehow, training should be made more accessible to everyone. The main problem with accessibility is cost. Some governments in the rest of Europe are very good at giving incentives to their workers. Maybe the incentive should be funding training to make sure workers are all equally competent.

hydrocarbons21.com: What is your prediction for the natural refrigerant market share in the next five years and in the next ten years in Europe?

Gaved: I don’t know what the base line is, but say 20% naturals at the moment, which is probably a bit high. In five years it will double, to 40%. In ten years, a lot depends on what happens to HFOs. If HFOs don’t develop, for whatever reason, then naturals could be 80-90%. But if HFOs develop in parallel, it could stay at 60-70%.

I think that at the moment, it’s about three things: firstly getting the message through about the benefits; secondly ensuring work is done to reduce costs; and thirdly accepting that change won’t happen overnight - there are still a lot of people who have to work with existing estates running on HFCs, and there are still a lot of sites where non-natural solutions provide the most energy efficient result.

The take-up of naturals is certainly accelerating - even in the last three years since ATMOsphere started, that situation has improved. But I think the future needs to be not about having two camps of naturals and non-naturals, but about collaboration!


By Janet Thompson

Apr 11, 2013, 12:18

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