AREA has reiterated its support for mandatory training in the use of alternative refrigerants citing a recent survey of F-Gas registered individuals. The survey was conducted during November and December 2020.
An estimated 345,000 individuals are F-Gas certified across the 18 EU member states that make up AREA’s membership. This figure is increased to 433,000 when including the UK, Turkey and Norway.
However, the European Cooling Body’s findings concluded that there was major uncertainty about the number of individuals trained to use lower GWP refrigerant. These are products that introduce some level of flammability or toxicity that needs to be considered during handling by specialists.
All figures provided as part of the survey were based either on official national statistics and certification body figures or are otherwise estimates of industry capability. An industry shift away from use of HFCs in favour of a range of lower-GWP alternatives as a result of F-Gas regulation was not presently being reflected in the number of RACHP engineers and specialists with training in using alternative products, according to AREA.
The body stated, “Almost no EU country has mandatory certification on alternative refrigerants in place.”
“A few members were unable to provide an estimate of the proportion of F-gas certified personnel trained on alternatives.”
An estimated seven per cent of F-gas certified individuals were trained for using Ammonia. 6.9 per cent of the same survey group were trained in using CO2, with 3.5 per cent having received training for using HFOs.
The cooling body said it had been warning European Commission officials of industry concerns about a shortage of contractors being trained in alternative refrigerants that would be a key focus of F-Gas legislation since 2012. It argued that these warnings about low levels of training for lower GWP refrigerant and a lack of substantial upskilling opportunities had continued to go unheeded despite growing demand for non-HFC gas.
AREA stated, “Nine years later, the situation has not improved. Arguably, it has actually worsened: training rates have remained largely stable whereas demand for low GWP alternatives has substantially increased. The issue is widely acknowledged and considered as a major obstacle to a stronger market take-up of alternative refrigerant solutions.!
“Whereas these alternative solutions are becoming available for an increasing number of applications, they need enough competent contractors to be certificated to work with them safely.”
The cooling body recommended extending F-Gas certification to include a mandatory training component for handling low-GWP refrigerant as a solution to the skills issues currently facing the cooling sector across Europe.
It said, “This would provide a sufficient number of contractors with the necessary level of competence to ensure safe, efficient and reliable handling of equipment working with low GWP refrigerants.”
Minimum skills requirements with regard to F-Gas certification are among the proposals AREA said it was now putting together for consideration during an ongoing European Commission review of the legislation.
A number of individual certification bodies across Europe have expressed support for mandatory training. Refcom in the UK said the introduction of mandatory training was among future changes that it would welcome in terms of post-Brexit amendments to F-Gas legislation. The legislation has now been transposed into UK law. This would help tackle some of the country’s specific challenges in ensuring the competence of RACHP engineers handling refrigerant, the certification body has recently argued.