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Back our F-gas scheme, REFCOM tells Government

The Government is being urged to help raise standards in the refrigeration industry when it introduces a mandatory company registration scheme to police F-gas regulations next year.

Next  month, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will launch a consultation on draft legislation concerning F-gas regulations – the European Commission’s drive to cut emissions of environmentally harmful refrigerants.

As part of this a registration scheme needs to be put in place by July 2009 and REFCOM, the industry’s existing voluntary scheme, is viewing the consultation as immensely important. REFCOM hopes feedback will endorse its more rigorous approach to registration, which goes far beyond the Commission’s minimum criteria.

Steve Crocker, REFCOM scheme co-ordinator, said: “It is very difficult to know what the Government is thinking ahead of the consultation. We think the scheme should be adopted as it is as it was designed and developed by the industry itself.

“But as the F-Gas regulations do not mention audits in its pages, the Government might not want to go down that particular route as it may feel our scheme is too robust.

“People in the industry know how important it is to have an audit system so any work using refrigerants can be tracked. This is what the industry has been crying out for over the last 10 years.

“When the consultation takes place we hope people will make it clear they want REFCOM implemented as it stands at the moment.”

REFCOM was set up in 1994 and has 300 members who have to meet high professional standards recognised by the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Industry Board (ACRIB).

Following the consultation, the Government could adopt REFCOM’s scheme as mandatory, ask REFCOM to introduce a more basic registration system or sanction another body to oversee registration.

Mr Crocker said: “If REFCOM does not get sanctioned by the Government it might be a case of not being able to continue. We could not operate a scheme without the support of the Government. A lot is riding on this consultation as far as REFCOM is concerned.

“It might be that we were sanctioned by the Government, but for a scheme which was not as robust as REFCOM is at the moment. We could then end up with a two-tier system.”

Mike Nankivell, chairman of the ACRIB F-gas Implementation Group, said: “If REFCOM could adapt its structure and cope with the additional workload I personally would be delighted – and a lot of people within the industry would be pleased – to see it become a mandatory register.

“We will have much more robust data which can be used for any future regulations. At the moment our industry is being guided by best-guess figures.

“If we have good, reliable data based on best practice within the refrigeration industry we can set an example to other countries in the EU.”

Graeme Fox, chairman of HVCA’s Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Group, said he wanted to see REFCOM at the heart of any consultation process: “The simple truth is no one else will have the time to get something up and running for next July.

“We have been asking for proper powers to police the industry for years because this is the only way to get rid of the cowboys who are out there.”