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How Existing and Upcoming Refrigeration Regulations Will Affect Your Business Operations

By Published On: January 29, 2021

Rising sea levels, the slow erosion of the earth’s ozone layer, and the threat of global warming have enacted environmental policies in different industries around the world. The commercial refrigeration industry is no exception. Ever since the Montreal Protocol and Kyoto Protocol were put in place to protect the stratospheric ozone layer and reduce greenhouse gas emissions respectively, several states and national refrigeration regulations have emerged.

Currently, the earth’s global warming levels have increased and the earth’s ozone layer needs to be protected. Without the proper policies in place to regulate the use of refrigerants with high Global Warming Potential (GWP) and Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP), the industry and the earth could face some challenges in the future.

To combat the ill- effects of high GWP and ODP refrigerants, environmental governing bodies like the California Air Resource Board (CARB), EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP), and the Department of Energy (DOE) have put rules and regulations in place targeting and impacting the commercial refrigeration industry.

In the state of California, they have CARB which was established in 1967 to be the “Clean Air Agency” in the state and the leading driver of innovation on environmental regulations in the country. To maintain the air quality in the state, CARB has regulated specific refrigerants and the reduction of F-gas emissions through its rulemaking activities and is pushing its 2030 deadline of reducing HFC emissions by 40 percent from its 2013 baseline levels. Some proposed CARB regulations include: Refrigerants with a GWP of 150 or greater will not be allowed in new stationary refrigeration systems charged with more than 50 pounds by January 1, 2022. For chillers and ice rinks, refrigerants with a GWP of 750 or greater are prohibited effective January 1, 2024. For existing food retail facilities with refrigeration systems with refrigerants more than 50 pounds, they should reach a 1,400 GWP average or 55% greenhouse gas emission potential from 2018 levels by 2030.

You may ask “I don’t have any business or retail stores in California, why should I care?” These regulations could quickly extend beyond California through the US Climate Alliance. This alliance is a bipartisan coalition of governors that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the country by implementing and accelerating new and existing policies in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The U.S. Climate Alliance has grown to 25 member states, representing 55 percent of the U.S. population and each state has its own timelines and requirements regarding refrigeration regulations. Some member states are already implementing refrigerant regulations that are the same as California’s.

Under Section 612 of the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA’s SNAP program reviews substitutes for ozone-depleting substances used in industrial and commercial sectors. The latest refrigerant regulations include the ban on the remaining production and import of widely used HCFC’s like R-22 and 142b as well as R404A and R507A in new cold-storage warehouse systems.

The U.S. DOE has put in place regulations that would affect the commercial refrigeration industry. Some of the latest regulations enacted by the governing body include: 20% to 40% energy reduction are now required for walk-in coolers and freezers (WICF) with medium-temperature condensing and self-contained units up to 3,000 square feet manufactured as of January 1, 2020. Similarly, 20% to 30% energy reduction is now required for WICFs with low-temp condensing systems, low-temp self-contained units, and medium and low-temperature unit coolers up to 3,000 square feet manufactured as of July 10, 2020.

Author Ernest Hemingway stated, “the Earth is a fine place and worth fighting for.” Knowing that the repercussions of climate change could be devastating and, if we don’t act now, there would be a bleak future ahead of us especially in the industry. It’s time for all of us in the industry to be proactive and fight to protect the world we live in.