The Colombian Refrigeration Sector and Opportunties for Mitigation

At the COP21 climate negotiations in December, Colombia was preliminarily awarded 9M EUR by the NAMA Facility to implement a program to reduce GHGs in the refrigeration sector. CCAP provided extensive technical, economic and policy input into the development of the NAMA.

Due in part to a growing population, economic development and urbanization, global emissions in the refrigeration and air conditioning sectors are expected to triple by 2050. Colombia, for instance emitted 4.5 Mt of CO2e in 2014 from the household refrigeration sector alone, and that number is projected to double by 2030.  Emissions originate from both the release of high Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerants during improper disposal or leakages as well as energy consumption during use.

The primary refrigerants used today are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).  They were developed in the late 1980s to replace the use of harmful chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that caused a dramatic depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. While HFCs do not cause ozone layer depletion, they are powerful greenhouse gases. For instance, the most widely-used HFC in household refrigerators, H-134a, has a GWP of 1430. Conversely, R-600, a hydrocarbon-based refrigerant, has a GWP of only 3. This high GWP and the fact that refrigerators are becoming an increasingly high contributor to energy demand in developing countries makes the refrigeration sector one with tremendous opportunity for mitigation.

The refrigeration sector offers mitigation opportunities in several areas:

  • Energy Efficiency. Improvement in the design of equipment can drastically reduce the electricity consumption. In Colombia, refrigerators manufactured today consume nearly half the energy of refrigerators produced in 1997. In Colombia’s low-income households, refrigerators represent a major portion of total energy use, accounting for up to 70% of the household electricity bill. In countries with high electricity subsidies, such as Colombia, improved efficiency can bring economic benefits not only to the consumer but to the government as well.
  • HFC Replacement. Switching from high-GWP HFCs to hydrocarbon based refrigerants like R-600 can have a great impact on the GHG emissions of the sector. These refrigerants are already common in places like Europe, Japan and China, and are readily available.  Their implementation, however, will require certain updates and changes to commercial production lines and processes.
  • Proper Disposal. The disposal of old, inefficient refrigerators needs to be included in integrated waste management processes, as the refrigerants used need to be properly recovered and disposed to avoid being released into the atmosphere. There is also a strong opportunity to recycle metals, plastic and other materials used in the equipment.

The Colombian NAMA applies several mechanisms to reduce GHG emissions, such as enforcing Minimum Efficiency Performance Standards (MEPS) or appliance labelling schemes to promote the sale of more efficient units, financial incentives to promote substitution of old units, and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) processes to ensure the proper disposal of the materials.  Additionally, the NAMA supports a ban on HFCs, production line conversions to move towards hydrocarbon-based refrigerants and improved product design to reduce energy consumption. The NAMA also supports an innovative incentive program to encourage replacement in low-income households.

An in-depth study of Colombia’s refrigeration sector conducted by CCAP found that implementation of policies in the three areas mentioned above could result in GHG emissions reduction of more than 50% during the lifetime of the equipment.

This is the second time a refrigeration NAMA has been selected for support by the NAMA Facility. The Thai Refrigeration and Air Conditioning NAMA was selected at COP20 and is currently in the appraisal process. The selection shows that the refrigeration sector is being recognized as important for emissions mitigation.

As countries now work to carry out the pledges made at COP21, these sector-based approaches will be an important part of the process. CCAP will continue to work to promote technological innovation and policy development in this and other sectors to help achieve the mitigation goals put forward in the historic Paris Agreement.