As with ESOS, the F-gas regulation has been adopted into UK law, so, without a change to that law, the provisions in it will still apply to the UK even after Brexit. It is unlikely the UK would repeal this legislation, as to do so would be a massive retrograde step, from an environmental perspective. There are also movements on a global scale, such as the HFC phase-out/phase-down under the Montreal Protocol, which are influencing the UK.
The European HFC phase-down, however, is based on a reducing refrigerant-volume quota system imposed on EU member states as a whole.
Of more pressing concern, however, will be how Brexit could impact on the price of HFC refrigerants, which will start to rise quite rapidly as the market anticipates the changes. As production of HFCs falls in line with the phase down, prices will rise, and a devalued pound will add further cost pressures on imported refrigerant supplies.Much will depend on how the UK decides to work with the EU. If the UK pursues the Norwegian model, nothing will change, but if not then the UK will have to establish its own quota allowance going forwards.
In light of these changes, now is the time to review current HVAC systems, and either upgrade them to utilise HFC refrigerants with a lower global-warming potential or invest in new units, which don’t use refrigerants as a cooling method or which can run on extremely low refrigerant levels.
Will Brexit impact on the UK’s climate change policies?
It’s unlikely that Brexit will have much impact on the UK’s climate-change policies, mainly because the UK Government has already gone further than the EU when it comes to reducing carbon emissions with the Climate Change Act, which compels Governments to cut emissions by at least 80% by 2050.
In fact, on 30 June, only a week after the Brexit vote, the UK published its fifth carbon budget. This announcement means that the UK accepts the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations to reduce emissions by 57% below 1990 levels between 2028 and 2032.
This will force many large and medium-sized companies to comply with lower carbon emissions and inform the regulator about their energy consumption and energy efficiency plans. As a facility manager, meeting these targets will require a combination of energy-saving measures and innovation in technology to ensure a building or buildings are as energy efficient as possible.
What can I do to improve energy management in my building as cost-effectively as possible?
Despite the huge amount of work already being carried out to save energy, such as by upgrading lighting technology, excluding draughts, and insulating walls, there is one area that accounts for up to 40% of a commercial building’s energy usage — HVAC systems.
Simple improvements to the efficiency of existing HVAC systems can offer considerable energy and CO2 savings, reduce costs and improve the working environment.
EC fans.Replacing AC fans with EC fans allows optimisation of cooling systems for ultimate energy efficiency, potentially reducing energy usage by up to 70%.There is a number of potential energy efficient upgrades, including the following.
- Electronic expansion valves. The use of electronic expansion valves (EEVs) in cooling units and condensers reduces the need for high head pressure, which can result in an increase in the energy efficiency ratio (EER) of 30%. EEVs provide stable, fast and precise control of superheat and can be used in all types of unit.
- Inverters. Installing inverters to motors allows precise control of motor speeds, which can be ramped up or down to match load requirements. This ensures that the energy used is only that which is needed.
- Refrigerant. Refrigerant upgrades help to increase system efficiency, which will also save money.
- Controls and BMS replacements. Upgrade to the latest software platforms to improve system optimisation. The latest hardware and unit strategy can be installed on existing equipment to ensure system reliability, enhanced performance and increased control.
- Variable-speed drives. Installing variable-speed drives allows control of fan and pump speeds, which can help to reduce energy consumption and costs by enabling the output speed of the motors to match load requirements.
- Compressors. Maintaining or, better still, upgrading compressors can save vast amounts of energy. Compressors can be precisely specified for individual applications and offer variable speed, which can be matched to load requirements, meaning the only energy used is that which is needed.
- Pumps. Upgrading and selecting the correct pump for an application and avoiding oversizing can lead to considerable energy savings. Again, pumps can be matched to demand, therefore using only the energy required.
- Sub-metering. Sub-metering and collecting energy data enables system inefficiencies to be highlighted, investigated and eliminated. Understanding energy usage by system components means, performance targets can be set and monitored regularly.
With likely increasing utility and refrigerant costs, alongside greater legislative and regulatory requirements on energy use and carbon reduction, it is more important than ever before that facilities managers develop strategic energy plans to improve efficiency and profitability.