Refrigeration rivals set for Brussels showdown

Manufacturers will have their chance to voice their opinion on proposals for regulating the sale of commercial refrigeration equipment in Europe when an official consultation forum takes place in Brussels today.

Under the guidance of the Ecodesign Directive, manufacturers will eventually be forced to comply with specific energy performance standards when exporting and selling refrigeration products in the EU.

The consultation forum will offer a chance for the catering equipment industry, including national bodies such as CESA and European association EFCEM, to hear and respond to recommendations made by the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry.

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Commercial refrigeration equipment, including refrigerated cabinets, blast cabinets, walk-in cold rooms and remote condensing units, have been identified by the European Commission as a product category with “high potential” for energy savings — as much as 60% in some cases — due to their high energy consumption and long operating times.

The consultation forum is the latest step on the way towards establishing a set of standards which manufacturers will be obliged to comply with. Equipment which does not meet the criteria set out by the European Commission would be precluded from sale in markets such as the UK.

Those in favour of the directive — irrespective of the final criteria — believe it will prevent second-rate products from being sold in the market and reassure end-users that the refrigeration systems they have purchased meet a recognised standard.

Keith Warren, director of the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA), insists that the establishment of minimum energy performance standards will have positive implications for the refrigeration market.

“I think you will find that most manufacturers would welcome something of this level because it is likely to help raise the game rather than encouraging companies to under-cut because they have got a cheap, inefficient product,” he said.

Ian Wood, managing director of Adande Refrigeration, insists his company already adheres to a comprehensive life-cycle sustainability policy when manufacturing products and would be ready to accommodate any standards imposed.

“I can’t see that it is going to give us any significant problems because we have got an eye on sustainability anyway,” he said. “It is all part of this gathering momentum flowing into the sustainability route. And, of course, the issue is not just what we are doing in our factory, it is how we get there and all the things that come into it.”

The Directorate-General has spent months examining the most objective methodologies for compiling criteria to regulate commercial refrigeration equipment, leaving industry stakeholders eagerly awaiting the details of its recommendations.

Although there is a strict timeframe in which the Ecodesign Directive must be implemented, the test standards for regulating commercial refrigeration standards remain the most complex part of the process as competing manufacturers — and individual countries — hold different opinions on what these should entail in some instances.

Adande’s Wood believes that barring any major indiscretions, it is important for the industry to accept the criteria that is recommended so that it can move on with preparing for the implementation of the directive.

“It serves no benefit to start picking holes in where we are at the moment,” he said. “The fact is it is happening, it is a forum, it is a discussion, and that is positive. The rest of it is just negotiation.”

A separate consultation forum for commercial ovens and hobs, meanwhile, is expected to take place in Brussels later this year.

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