Market Insight from our Italian correspondent Luisa-Maria Doldi

The ongoing revision of EU F-Gas Regulation 517/2014 is a delicate and crucial step that will influence cooling policies at least until 2030. It is also an opportunity to reflect on how each Member State has effectively implemented the community regulations.

The refrigeration sector in Italy acknowledges the undisputed significance of the Regulation: the urgency of safeguarding the climate requires that every sector contribute. The refrigeration sector that, with fluorinated gases, is responsible for 4.4% of the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions, evidently needs to start from the elimination of high GWP-gases.

For many companies, this acted as a stimulus to invest in research and development and to promote solutions with alternative refrigerants, as it is apparent from their catalogues: on the Italian market today, nearly all manufacturers can offer components or solutions for alternative refrigerants, whether flammable and not. This impulse helped maintaining the competitiveness of the Italian sector on the international market, within technologies for which Italian companies are world-wide leaders.

It is expected that, in Italy too, the new F-Gas will strengthen the efforts to counter illegal HFC trafficking, provide an impulse in education and training on alternative refrigerants as well as a stronger action of market surveillance. Given the very high costs involved in the substitution of HFC refrigerants, due to research and development and to the adaptation or replacement of equipment, one hopes that ultimate and not just intermediate scenarios be defined rapidly.

Incentive schemes for sustainable cold: the notable absentee

When it comes to the implementation of the F-Gas regulation at national level, the wish list is longer. In Italy, unlike in the rest of Europe, greenhouse emissions due to HFCs increased since 1990, from 0.4 to 16.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent. Acting on new equipment is obviously not going to be enough: the transition to sustainable technologies can only be effective if the large fleet of old plants still functioning gets converted too. To promote a swift transition, national incentive schemes are necessary. At present, these are insufficient in Italy, or rather non-existent. Anima, the sector industrial organization within Confindustria, which represents mechanical engineering companies, including manufacturers of refrigeration equipment, proposed a structural program of tax incentives to the Government that would speed up the green transition in food distribution. This is perfectly in line with European and national policies for the fight against climate change and with the Recovery Plan. Overall, Italy has hardly any tax incentives aimed at the transition to green refrigeration. As stated by various associations in the specialised press, the reduction of HFC emissions is a national objective: as such, support mechanisms are be offered to those who renovate their plant before their natural end-of-life for the good of the environment.

Less bureaucracy

Another sore point is the burden caused by the bureaucracy.

In Italy, the adoption of the European Regulation has invariably led to a higher administrative cost for companies, thus to competitive disadvantage with respect to other European countries. In the refrigeration sector, most companies are small: any law that aims at regulating their activity should ideally be tuned to the size of the company, and this is not always the case.

National F-Gas coordination

The parties involved in the implementation of the F-Gas Regulation in Italy are numerous and communication does not always flow smoothly. As a result, there may occasionally be confusion in the definitions and communications. Even supervising and verifying that operators possess the necessary qualifications to handle F-Gas is often handled by far too many subjects: this cannot guarantee that the inspections be adequately coordinated, and controls be thorough thus jeopardising their effectiveness. Further, for a long time, sector associations have been demanding the creation of a national refrigerant recovery and recycling system, a key-step for complying with F-Gas obligations.

Perhaps, the revision of the regulation will be an opportunity to stimulate this front too.