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Industry gives HC refrigerant lobby both barrels

FIVE refrigeration and air conditioning industry bodies – VASA included – have co-signed an open letter to the so-called Australian Refrigeration Association (ARA) in response to “inaccurate public pronouncements” made about the Ozone Acts review.

Letter to ARA
Letter to ARA

The co-signatories – including the Air conditioning and Refrigeration Equipment Manufacturers of Australia (AREMA), the Air conditioning Mechanical Contractors Association (AMCA), Refrigerants Australia (RA) and Refrigerant Reclaim Australia (RRA) – addressed five main points about which the hydrocarbon refrigerant promoting ARA has made misleading statements.

First point taken down in the open letter was the ARA’s suggestion that industry had not had an opportunity to raise issued with the Australian Federal Department of the Environment in a missive inviting the industry to “stir” the Department into action.

The letter points out that the review’s terms of reference release in May 2014 was followed by the establishment of a Technical Working Group – of which all co-signatories and the ARA members – and that the ARA “did not bring a single proposal or concrete suggestion for consideration by the Working Group over the course of many meetings”.

It goes on to remind the ARA that its representative and President, Tim Edwards, “remained silent during the meetings,” therefore invalidating suggestions that supporting analysis to the Ozone Review Options Paper was inaccurate.

“You had, as we all did, an opportunity to make suggestions, present views, and table proposals. ARA’s failure to get its views across is due to your inaction, not the Department’s failure to listen,” the letter says.

Point two in the open letter tears apart ARA’s assertion that it is a leading industry voice and the only organisation supporting “natural” refrigerants (the ARA conveniently omits to mention that RA represents companies that manufacture, sell and use more than 90 per of carbon dioxide and ammonia refrigerants), while taking aim the organisation’s claims about industry bodies that oppose hydrocarbon retrofits being commercially motivated.

“The majority of your support, as indicated on your website, comes from companies selling hydrocarbons for use in retrofits,” says the letter. “In claiming everyone else is driven by a commercial motive and you are not, is simply inaccurate.”

Claims that systems using hydrocarbon refrigerants are more energy efficient than those running HFCs such as R134a also come under fire as “not substantiated and most likely false”. The letter points out that Mr Edwards was present when it was announced that one of the only hydrocarbon air conditioning systems available on the Australian market recently failed Minimum Energy Performance Standards.

The letter agrees with ARA’s claim that a training gap exists when it comes to new refrigerants but not the implication that “nothing is happening in this space and that this is a government responsibility alone to solve”.

“As responsible manufacturers, suppliers, contractors and service organisations we believe we share an obligation to respond to industry needs,” the letter says, before going on to describe existing training programs run by industry organisations and their member companies.

“While we note you have raised concerns on these issues, we do not have any information regarding what investments ARA has made to solve these problems.”

Finally, the letter reminds ARA of its consistent failure to acknowledge that mainstream industry has been arguing for a phase-down of HFCs since 2007 and its successes in reducing emissions as well as improving energy efficiency by more than a third over the last decade and a half.

“You suggest that the RAC industry can improve its environmental performance. We agree,” it says.

“Can and should we do more – yes, but the implication that mainstream industry is ignoring pressing environmental issues is disingenuous and fails to account for real victories.”

Mr Edwards responded with two open letters, one of which was addressed to what he coined as the “Synthetic Refrigerants Alliance”.

The opening paragraph of one letter reads as follows:

“I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your letter, which I gather you intend to make a public accusation. I take it as meaning, like the big guy in the pub said, ‘let’s step outside.’ My response is: ‘Bring it on – any time, any where’.

Read the industry open letter here

Read the two ARA responses here

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