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EXCLUSIVE: Will expanded Energy Technology List finally give operators the urge to splurge on better kit?

Kitchen

Catering equipment manufacturers have been promised that the criteria for inclusion on the government’s Energy Technology List (ETL) will be published by the end of November – but question marks remain over how users will be incentivised to use the scheme.

The ETL is a database of energy efficient plant and machinery that is managed on behalf of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) by global consulting services firm ICF.

In order for a product to be listed, it must meet the ETL’s energy-saving criteria – typically set at the top 25% of products in the market.

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The ETL is designed to function as an easy-to-use procurement tool for energy managers, procurement professionals and facilities managers, giving added reassurance to purchasers of measured and verified energy performance.

Up to now the list has included certain types of commercial refrigeration products, but its scope is now being widened to include a broader range of professional foodservice equipment (PFSE), starting with combi steamers, convection ovens, undercounter dishwashers and hood-type dishwashers.

Consultations to include hobs and grills on the list will commence in January, while a third phase could include ventilation.

At last week’s FEA Conference, Tom Lock, senior managing consultant at ICF, confirmed: “We are set to launch the PFSE Technology Group on the Energy Technology List imminently. This will be our 19th product group and will sit alongside other key technologies such as heat pumps, lighting, motors and refrigeration.

“By launching criteria for combi steam ovens, convection ovens and undercounter and hood-type dishwashers it will take our total ETL categories to over 60 and approximately 10,000 products listed on the website across  those categories.”

The criteria will be subject to regular review, but Mr Lock said it was vital to expand the scheme sooner rather than later given that the industry is “just three kitchens away from net zero.”

He added that the programme had the potential to make a “significant difference” to the adoption of energy efficient kitchen equipment and said that it represented the first opportunity for suppliers to showcase green appliances with an approval that is “government-backed, verified and impartial”.

Other than refrigerated storage cabinets, commercial kitchens remain largely unregulated from an energy consumption perspective.

There are currently no mandatory minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) or domestic-style labelling to guide users purchasing equipment.

Mr Lock said that ICF’s own research had found it was “not easy” for buyers to source independent, verified information on the energy consumption and relative performance of catering equipment.

Dealers that it surveyed prior to the pandemic said they did not overly promote energy efficiency information when advertising products due to a “lack of interest or awareness” from buyers, while other stakeholders suggested there was insufficient awareness of the savings posed by energy efficient equipment beyond what was contained in the brochures and websites of a “small number” of manufacturers.

ICF’s research also found that energy efficient equipment was at a “disadvantage” as purchases are largely influenced by initial cost, rather than total cost of ownership.

However, Mr Lock noted that the energy crisis is likely to have resulted in a shifting of attitudes versus two years ago, making the scheme more attractive to buyers while also reinforcing its role as a “key underpinning instrument” for the implementation of the FEA’s five-point plan for net zero carbon.

The inclusion of commercial dishwashers and ovens will also be accompanied by other improvements to the scheme that are set to benefit operators.

Users will be able to access an online calculator to identify potential savings, while there are plans for the platform to be integrated into other programmes and initiatives, such as BREEAM, to help procurers inform the choices they are making.

New API functionality will also widen the opportunity for procurers to source products from the ETL, expand the “shop window” for manufacturers’ ETL-approved equipment and allow buyers to integrate ETL datasets within their own internal procurement processes.

Mr Lock said: “What dealer or distributor doesn’t want a direct, seamless accurate feed for ETL-approved products straight into their online retail platform to save time and avoid any confusion at what is and what is not approved?

“We will also be publishing new criteria in other technology areas like building energy management systems and commercial fans, as well as revising 13 other sets of existing criteria. This presents an opportunity for the PFSE industry to be part of something wider and for your customers to know there are energy efficient versions of many of the products they need across their operations.

“We are considering thematic content on the website for certain procurer business types. For example, if it’s a pub or a restaurant, your energy efficient PFSE will sit alongside energy efficient cellar cooling, lighting, heating and controls, ventilation and so on.”

While the imminent release of ETL criteria before the end of November has been welcomed by commercial oven and warewashing manufacturers, the industry is desperate to know how the scheme will be promoted to drive uptake.

Many suppliers feel that the additional cost associated with testing and conformity to get their products listed will only be warranted if users are incentivised to buy from the programme.

The ETL used to offer buyers an Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) for energy and water efficient products, but that ended in April 2020.

Paul Anderson, managing director of Meiko and current FEA chair, is among those who think that such a mechanism – or at least something similar – should be reinstated.

“I remember a number of years ago when I was with a company that was first involved in the ETL in terms of refrigeration. It was a huge long process but there were some really good financial incentives for end-users for procuring a product marked ETL.

“That makes a big difference to an operator in terms of justifying the difference in expenditure to buy something that is dearer for the long term, is much better for the planet, much better for their business, and will save a lot of money. If you have a kick-off in terms of a rebate of some kind that really does push it forward.”

At the conference, Mr Lock declined to get drawn into whether any financial incentives are planned but insisted the government was aware of the industry’s views and said it was now a case of “leaving it with BEIS and the Treasury to have those sorts of conversations”.

He added: “First of all we need that underpinning building block which is the scheme, which is the criteria, and then the products listed. The reason why we have a five-point plan rather than a one-point plan is because one of those five points is to get products on there and then the other four points are all around incentives and making it worthwhile.”

One way the ETL could instantly become more financially worthwhile for manufacturers is if the government introduces mandatory requirements for the public sector to buy ovens and warewashers via the ETL.

A consultation on changes to government buying standards for food, catering services and new data reporting requirements was issued earlier this by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Tags : catering equipmentEnergy efficiencyEnergy Technology ListETL
Andrew Seymour

The author Andrew Seymour

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