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Natural refrigerants in municipal buildings` cooling

The use of natural refrigerants in Air-Conditioning Systems, in replacement of currently applied refrigerant fluids such as HCFC and HFC (glossary link), offers a way to increase energy efficiency while contributing to climate mitigation and ozone layer protection. Natural refrigerants include substances such as carbon dioxide, ammonia, propane, and other hydrocarbons.
This solution consists of a set of measures conducing to the conversion of conventional central air-conditioning systems in municipal buildings and facilities to the use of natural refrigerants). Local Governments can contribute to the safe use and promotion of natural refrigerants. They develop local capacities for the installation, maintenance and servicing of these devices. Additionally, by using natural refrigerants in their own buildings, they create demonstration sites to showing the viability of the technology, giving an important signal to the local market and community.

Motivation / Relevance

Air conditioning units and refrigerators consume 20% of the electrical energy world-wide and the trend is for this percentage to increase. The energy requirement for air conditioning alone is expected to grow at an average of 7% annually until the year 2050 in developing countries [1].

The carbon footprint from cooling technologies can be reduced significantly by using alternative technologies which have significantly higher energy efficiency. With the use of natural refrigerants, energy consumption can be reduced by over 50%, and so can the corresponding indirect greenhouse emissions [2].

Cheap but environmentally harmful fluorinated gases still dominate in many countries where most domestic and commercial installations currently use ozone depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) as cooling agents - typical applications include air-conditioners, chillers, and heat pumps. HCFCs will be phased out under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer within the next years. However, the most common replacement options are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which do no longer deplete the ozone layer but have a very high global warming potential (GWP), typically between 700 and 4000 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2) and are regulated under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) [3].

Main impacts

  • Long-term mitigation potential in the sector of air conditioning in buildings.
  • Generate a technology example that could be easily replicated.
  • Creation of new jobs in a new technology sector.
  • Demonstration of the economic viability of natural refrigerants systems to the community.
  • Build consumer and industry confidence in central air-conditioning systems using natural refrigerants.
  • Creation of new local market opportunities based on front-running technologies.
  • Increased competitiveness for companies.
  • Protection of the ozone layer.

Benefits and Co-Benefits

  • Reduce Local Government´s energy bill.
  • Enhance Local Government`s profile as green and sustainable.
  • Reduce GHG emissions of the Local Government`s activities.
  • Build technical capacity on natural refrigerants.