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Government announces Climate Solutions Package

The federal government has set out its climate change approach in the lead-up to the federal election, likely to be held in May.

The Climate Solutions Package (CSP) is a $3.5 billion policy that promises to help meet Australia’s 2030 Paris Treaty commitments of reducing 2005 emissions by 26–28 per cent. Perhaps signalling a growing awareness of the role HVAC&R could play in reversing climate change, the CSP includes strategies specifically related to this sector.

The largest chunk of funding goes to the Climate Solutions Fund (CSF), currently known as the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF). The government has pledged an additional $2 million to continue funding the projects supported by the ERF, as well as new ones. These projects include HVAC&R, as well as broader energy efficiency measures, agriculture, land management, mining and transport.

According to the government, the new funding will provide support to small businesses to upgrade air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

As at June 15, 2018, there were at least three registered projects clearly involving some HVAC&R component. This included a project run by Woolworths Pty Ltd, which had a contract for 418 thousand tonnes of carbon equivalent abatement, of which 67,000 had been sold to the Commonwealth.

On top of the CSF, there is also a pledge to improve energy efficiency by expanding the energy rating label to include “heating appliances, such as gas heaters, electric heaters and reverse-cycle air conditioners”. According to the government, these make up 26 per cent of household energy use.

Buildings are on the agenda too. The government says it will provide resources, training and tools to help commercial and residential building owners and occupiers reduce energy. It is also aiming to improve rating tools such as NABERS and will consider expanding the Commercial Building Disclosure (CBD) Program following the current review.

The government expects these energy-efficiency measures to reduce emissions by 66 million tonnes by 2030.

Finally, the CSP will include an information program to inform owners of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment of the benefits of regular maintenance.

“This will reduce refrigerant leaks, improve the energy performance of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment and reduce emissions from HFCs,” the government says. “These measures are expected to reduce emissions by 35 million tonnes by 2030.”

The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) has responded to the announcement of the CSP with cautious optimism.

“Hopefully we will see the upgrade and replacement of old inefficient equipment with high-efficiency equipment,” says AIRAH CEO Tony Gleeson, M.AIRAH. “However, it’s critical it is installed, commissioned and maintained properly to ensure energy is not wasted.”

Standards Australia is leading a new project to develop a building commissioning technical specification. And AIRAH is due to release an updated version of its DA19 HVAC&R Maintenance technical manual later this year.

“The industry faces many challenges as we transition to a low-emissions future,” says Gleeson. “We also need a strong focus on systemic issues such as training and education, licencing and registration, the introduction of flammable refrigerants, and of course maintenance.

“We also need a focus on reducing refrigerant leakage in our systems to minimise direct greenhouse gas emissions and to ensure equipment doesn’t lose its ability to run efficiently.”

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