The Future is Promising but we must be Vigilant.
In a rare show of bi-partisanship, in September, the US Senate ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phasedown the manufacture and purchase of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. Concurrently there has been activity in many US states, including New York, California, New Jersey, to pass legislation to phasedown the use of HFCs with high global warming potential. The most common HFC used is supermarkets, R-404 has GWP of 4000 times carbon dioxide. Those of us who have followed the trajectory of the HFC phasedown and the recent introduction of new climate friendly refrigerants are very encouraged by the relevant recommendations in the New York State Climate Action Council Scoping Plan Scoping Plan – New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) (ny.gov) which was established following passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019 . Highlights from the Scoping plan relevant to HFCs are:
Page 14 of Executive Summary of Scoping Plan
A transition to low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants and enhanced refrigerant management will be required to electrify heating and refrigeration, while reducing and ultimately eliminating GHG emissions from hydrofluorocarbon (HFC)-based refrigerants used in today’s heat pumps as well as refrigerators.
Taken from pages 216-218 of the Full Scoping Plan
Transition from Hydrofluorocarbons (HFC): HFC use is currently widespread in refrigeration and HVAC equipment, including heat pumps that are recommended to electrify space conditioning and water heating, and in other end uses such as foams that provide insulation for higher efficiency buildings. New York State agencies should continue to adopt regulations and coordinate with other states on HFC reduction policies to ensure an effective HFC phase-down. For this transition, the State should support technical resources and toolkits; workforce training; demonstration projects; and incentives that make low-global warming potential refrigerant technologies and alternatives available and affordable; including a focus on natural refrigerants.
Components of the Strategy • Provide education and training: The State should provide resource toolkits, programs, and incentives that make low-GWP refrigerant technologies and low-GWP alternatives available and affordable, including a focus on natural refrigerants. NYSERDA should support design professional and workforce training and education, including in Registered Apprenticeship programs, around low-GWP refrigerants and alternatives, including natural refrigerants, in building equipment and in building/construction spray foam. DEC should promulgate regulations regarding proper disposal of HFCs already in use in existing equipment and such regulations should be supported by training installers and contractors on handling, equipment maintenance, and disposal protocols.
Update regulations, codes, and standards: As soon as possible, the State should update relevant codes, including the mechanical code, to allow the use of low-GWP alternatives for HFCs in relevant building equipment. DEC should promulgate regulations requiring reclamation or destruction of refrigerants from appliances at end-of-life, with verification and reporting, and require leak detection for certain commercial refrigeration. In addition to education and training, the State should provide economic support (such as, incentives to purchase leak detection and reclamation equipment, or compensation for refrigerant reclamation) to aid local industry with this transition.
• Support the HFC phase-out in food stores: Supermarkets are the largest source of HFC emissions in New York. There are natural alternatives available today that not only provide significant GHG reduction benefits but are also more efficient, do not contain fluorinated chemicals, and have a lower total cost of ownership. The key barrier to wider adoption is the high cost of installation, which may be prohibitive for small businesses and for stores in Disadvantaged Communities. NYSERDA, DPS, and DEC should coordinate to develop incentives such as utility rebates and grant programs to support the adoption of natural refrigerants in food stores. Incentives are particularly needed to fund a substantial portion of the installation of new equipment in existing stores in Disadvantaged Communities or stores operated by independent companies or small chains, to enable food stores to phase out HFCs without impacting LMI consumers or negatively affecting food security.
• Phase out high-GWP HFCs: DEC should expand the scope of 6 NYCRR Part 494, passed in 2020, which prohibits certain HFCs in refrigerator/freezers, chillers, commercial refrigeration, and aerosols/foams/solvents end uses, including through the establishment of a GWP threshold that decreases over time as low and ultra-low GWP options become available and addressing leakage in existing equipment during the transition. DEC should align New York policy with anticipated federal (EPA) policy measures to meet HFC reduction requirements as well as with other U.S. Climate Alliance states, to send a strong market signal to manufacturers and industry while mitigating costs of the transition.
• Research health effects and environmental impacts: The State should support further research into known data gaps, including an analysis of typical leak rates and charge size in heat pump technologies and research into long-term health effects of exposure to new HFC-alternative chemicals in building materials. • Support RD&D: The State should continue to support demonstration projects for low and ultra-low GWP refrigerants in HVAC and hot water systems and for refrigerant leakage detection and reduction strategies. The State should develop case studies in refrigerant management and Chapter 12. Buildings 218 alternatives to HFCs, including natural refrigerants, showing the safety, performance, and cost impacts.
Recommendations on Research and development of new low emissions refrigerants. (Page 211 of the Full Scoping Plan Report)
Research and Development also should be pursued to develop and deploy specific technologies, such as long-duration energy storage and ultra-low GWP alternatives to HFCs, including natural refrigerants, spray foam insulation, HVAC, water heating, and refrigeration technologies. In these areas, federal government RD&D funding and leadership is critical.
350NYC and Sustainable Hudson Valley https://sustainhv.org/ are two climate groups that have lobbied the NY DEC and Congress on the HFC phasedown regulations. The next step is to urge policymakers to pass strict regulations on refrigerant leak detection and prevention and safe practices for CFC/HFC end-of life disposal.
Currently many brands of Refrigerators on the market are using low GWP refrigerants see more here –https://350nyc.org/buying-a-climate-friendly-refrigerator-and-air-conditioner/
Margaret Perkins, Leader, Buildings and Energy Working Group