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Cold Hard Facts 3 released

It’s the most comprehensive inventory available of the Australian HVAC&R sector, and a new version has just been published. Cold Hard Facts 3, produced by The Expert Group for the Department of the Environment and Energy, presents nationwide figures for equipment, refrigerant, energy consumption and emissions.

The study aims to provide policy makers, industry, and the general public with a broad view of the size and value of the industry. The Cold Hard Facts series of reports also establishes benchmarks that can be used in future years as reference points against which to measure growth and change.

Based on data up to 2016, Cold Hard Facts 3 confirms the continued growth of Australia’s HVAC&R sector – ahead of population growth and GDP – and points to some key trends. Although the study was previewed at ARBS in May, it has since gone through a full quality assurance process, and some of the key figures have been significantly revised.

The big numbers

From 2012 – when Cold Hard Facts 2 was published – until 2016, the following overall changes were noted:

  • Employment in the HVAC&R sector rose from 173,000 (1.5% of 11.53m) to 298,400 (2.5% of 12.47m). These people are employed in more than 20,000 businesses operating in the industry, and earned approximately $24bn in wages and salaries in 2016.
  • Direct spending – on purchasing, installing, maintaining and operating RAC equipment – rose from $26.2bn (1.7% of $1,522bn) to $38.11bn (2.3% of $1,679bn).
  • Electricity use rose slightly, from 59,100GWh (23.5% of 251,000GWh) to 61,000GWh (23.6% of 258,000 GWh). The report notes that RAC technology in all its forms is the single largest electricity consuming class of technology in Australia.
  • Greenhouse emissions also rose slightly from 64.5Mt CO2e (11.9% of 547Mt) to 68.71Mt CO2e (12.4% of 554Mt). This is made up of 58.7Mt CO2e of indirect emissions (that is, from electricity consumption by HVAC&R) and 10Mt CO2e of direct emissions from leaks and equipment end-of-life losses.
  • The stock of equipment rose from 45m to 50m pieces. Of special note was the increase in the walk-in coolroom sector – up 265% from 98,100 to 258,000.

Our changing refrigerant bank

In line with the growth of the sector, the study confirms increases in our stock of refrigerants.

The refrigerant bank grew by 17 per cent from 2012 to 2016. The big three were 410a, 404a and 134a, followed by R22, which has now dropped below 10,000 tonnes. This will continue to fall as existing equipment reaches end of life and no more enters the bank. The bank of natural refrigerants grew by 14 per cent, with CO2 and hydrocarbons the big contributors to that rise.

Other highlights included the rapid emergence of R32 in small air conditioning systems; the use of hydrocarbons in domestic refrigeration and supermarkets; steady growth in ammonia, driven mainly by increased cold storage floor space; and the very recent emergence of HFOs and blends for large chillers.

In terms of CO2 equivalent, the impact of the HFC phase-down will not be felt for some time yet in the refrigerant bank. “Peak bank” is expected around 2020, at more than 102m tonnes of CO2e.

Looking further ahead, this is predicted to decline steadily to an estimated 80m tonnes CO2e by 2030. Over the same period, the direct emission impact of the bank is expected to fall by more than 27%. This reflects the expected rate of transition of the bank to the use of lower-GWP HFCs, and increasing use of low-GWP non-HFC refrigerants.

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