At a glance
Refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) are responsible for a significant share of global greenhouse gas emissions. Especially in developing countries in Africa, the demand for cooling equipment is rising. Population growth, an increasing middle class, changing lifestyles and rising ambient temperatures are responsible for the rapid growth of each of these domains. The growing use of RAC appliances leads to increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to two reasons: first, most RAC applications consume electricity. Up to date, this electricity is mainly generated through fossil fuel combustion, resulting in large amounts of CO2 emissions (indirect emissions); second, most of the applications use fluorinated gases (F-gases) â€“ HCFCs or HFCs â€“ as refrigerants. As these gases leak â€“ for example during operation, servicing or when an appliance is scrapped â€“ they cause substantial emissions as well (direct emissions).
Some of the most common HFCs include HFC-134a (with a global warming potential (GWP) of 1,430, i.e. 1,430 time more climate-harmful than CO2), HFC-404A (GWP 3,922), HFC- 410A (GWP 2,088), HFC-407C (GWP 1,774) and HFC-507A (GWP 3,985).
HFCs primarily used as refrigerants are the fastest growing GHGs in many parts of the world, increasing at a rate of 10 to 15% per year.
It is estimated that without the recently adopted Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, the continuing growth of HFCs would be responsible for a 0.1Â°C temperature rise in 2050, with a potential to increase up to 0.5Â°C by 2100. This development would have neutralised much of the climate mitigation achieved by reducing GHG emission in other sectors. A phase down of the production and consumption of HFCs can provide an estimated 6 to 10% of the total GHG reductions by 2050 (Green Cooling Initiative, country data, 2016).
This can be done through cost-effective mitigation, such as the substitution of HFCs with natural refrigerants and the usage of cooling equipment with increased energy efficiency running on renewable energies. Direct HFC emissions alone are expected to account for approx. 20% for the largest single source of non-CO2 abatement potential across all non-CO2 emitting sectors in 2030. Policy instruments to advance more sustainable RAC solutions have proven effective, and as a result, climate-friendly systems that combine high-energy efficiency with natural refrigerants and blowing agents are already established in a number of applications.
However, in most countries in Africa, energy efficiency levels in the RAC sector with regard to appliances and buildings are low, due to a number of reasons such as missing enforced sectoral efficiency targets, subsidised electricity, unprogressive Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) and missing energy labelling, lack of stringent building efficiency standards or energy management practices. Accordingly, the high increase of cooling demands would lead to growing infrastructure of inefficient cooling appliances, and in consequence, to significant additional GHG emissions from HFCs as well as from fossil- fuel-based energy use.
While there is a great deal of potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through greater energy efficiency, the building sector has so far derived little benefit from climate-related program and projects. There is a lack of energy efficiency policies offering orientation and security for potential investors. In addition, there is a shortage of technical expertise and capacity for the planning, construction and operation of energy-efficient buildings that conserve resources, or for the modernisation of buildings to improve energy efficiency.