APPLiA Digital Interview: How refrigerants restrictions risk hampering energy efficiency targets

The EU's proposed bans on F-gas and upcoming PFAS restrictions will pose significant limitations on certain types of refrigerants. Such restrictions would therefore make it impossible for some products to meet the newly proposed ecodesign efficiency requirements, hindering REPowerEU targets.

There are many roads to enabling Europe’s energy transition. One route the European Commission has taken to do this is through the regulation of refrigerants. The proposed bans on F-gas and the upcoming PFAS restrictions will pose significant limitations on certain types of refrigerants. Such restrictions would therefore make it impossible, for some products, to meet the newly proposed ecodesign efficiency requirements, hindering the EU’s progress towards its REPowerEU targets and slowing down overall decarbonisation efforts.

APPLiA Energy Policy Director Matteo Rambaldi addressed the relation between refrigerant restrictions and energy efficiency targets in a short video interview. Watch it here

What is the relation between refrigerant use and energy efficiency in products?

Refrigerants are a key component of some home appliances and ‘essential to their functioning [...] and energy efficiency,” said Rambaldi. The efficiency of a product is in fact also given by the refrigerant used. Any disruption to expanding the use of products containing certain refrigerants in Europe could seriously jeopardise any ground made on climate action thus far.

The proposed bans on F-gas and upcoming PFAS restrictions are posing significant limitations on certain types of refrigerants, “making it impossible for some products to meet the newly proposed ecodesign requirements,” he continued. As a result of the limitations on refrigerant use, certain products may not be able to square the efficiency circle. Examples include heat pump equipment ranging between 6kW and 12kW, where a sudden shift in the refrigerant used would not guarantee the same levels of efficiency of the product.

Heat pumps have been identified as a crucial technology for Europe’s decarbonisation and are central to the EU’s REPowerEU plan and most recent Net-Zero Industry Act as one of the net-zero technologies that will be instrumental to ramp up European production capacities for renewable energy technologies. Limitations on the use of refrigerants will move instead in the opposite direction, limiting their availability for certain market segments.   

What is the potential impact of refrigerant restrictions?

The rollout and everyday use of home appliances containing refrigerants such as heat pumps and air conditioners, are crucial to both the smooth functioning of the sector, and Europe’s decarbonisation efforts.

Lack of refrigerant choice can lead to “increased costs for the final product, making them a less convenient option for consumers,” pointed out Rambaldi. Which could result in “key efficiency losses” due to a slower uptake of this technology.

As currently presented, manufacturers would have to suddenly rely on natural refrigerant alternatives. This means that the almost 30 thousand different models of heat pumps currently present on the market, would require immediate, drastic changes to their design and overall production processes.

What should be done to address this issue?

To develop appliances that use alternative solutions, we must first ensure finding viable alternatives which are as safe, energy-efficient, affordable and technically feasible as the refrigerants being replaced. This cannot occur overnight.

Put simply, “the overlap between energy efficiency targets and refrigerant restrictions requires further evaluation,” continued Rambaldi.

For its part, the home appliance sector has invested in cleaner technologies using lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerants, while striving to design increasingly energy-efficient products that offer equal advantages for both the environment and consumers.

Moving forward, we urge the European Commission to postpone the review of the proposed efficiency requirements' thresholds and timeline for implementation to a later date. “An in depth evaluation should be made to align those dates with the ones for phasing out current refrigerants under the F-gas regulation,” concluded Rambaldi.

Watch the full interview