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Australia goes all natural

Government’s emphasis on energy efficiency underpins growth of natural refrigerants market and a concerted drive towards innovation

| | Jul 12, 2017 | 1:22 pm
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According to a Bloomberg report, Australia has announced an economic stimulus package in its annual budget that features a USD 75 billion infrastructure plan, including road, rail and runway construction.

Dr Alex Wonhas

The infrastructure plan, however, will most likely be regulated by the country’s keenness to meet its energy targets. This is confirmed by Dr Alex Wonhas, Managing Director for Energy, Resources and Manufacturing of Aurecon, who said that the 2017-2018 Australian Federal Budget showcases the government’s strong interest in the energy sector. He said, “The 2017 May Budget contains a number of measures aimed at improving the affordability and reliability of energy in form of investment in infrastructure and institutions.”

This is evident in the public sector’s focus in projects, such as Snowy Hydro 2.0, a solar thermal plant in Port Augusta, additional transmission and storage infrastructure and, most importantly, a USD 90 million energy security plan.

“In order to improve its energy security,” Wonhas said, “Australia will need to find cost-effective ways to store or transport energy from where and when it is produced to where and when it is needed, as energy supply will become increasingly variable through the expected uptake of renewable energy.”

He added that renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, are slowly gaining independence from subsidies, as latest advancement allows them to compete with conventional power stations. Wonhas said: “Many technologies already exist to balance supply and demand, including batteries, pumped hydro, improved transmission networks and demand-side responses.”

What does this mean for the HVAC sector?

The renewed focus on energy security has prompted action from the HVAC sector, with many companies eager to reinforce their competitive advantage in light of the upcoming phase-down of HFCs, through the utilisation of natural refrigerants.

Ahmad Fraij, Director, Engineered HVAC Solutions (EHVACS), believes that stakeholders in the industry have embraced this trend and that it will further drive innovation in the sector. “We have noticed in recent years that natural refrigerants, such as CO2, are increasingly [being] implemented inside Australia – mainly in refrigeration systems more than the air conditioning systems,” Fraij said. “For sure, there are plenty of R&D activities in this field, since the natural refrigerants are environmentally friendly.”

The emphasis on R&D, Fraij noted, is a strong feature of the country’s HVAC industry. He emphasised that the protracted experience of Australian manufacturers and the quality systems they have adopted led to the development of good HVAC products that are “reliable, efficient and sustainable”. He also added that research, development and innovation enhanced HVAC products in such a way that it allowed manufacturers to “overcome the challenges locally, in Australia, and internationally, in the export markets”.

This was confirmed by Sam Peli, General Manager for Sales (Europe, Middle East and Africa) for Seeley International, who was gleaning from the company’s decades-long experience. He noted that since the time Seeley International first manufactured air conditioners, in 1972, the company has ensured that the design and manufacture of most of the components for its air conditioning products, based on evaporative cooling technology, are within Australia. Today, the company’s operations extend beyond the continent to include Italy, France, United Kingdom, United States and South Africa.

Samuele Peli

This move towards greater appreciation for natural refrigerants and efforts to enhance business models were also underlying themes during the second annual ATMOsphere Australia 2017, held on May 2, 2017, where industry leaders came together to discuss key trends within the industry. Participants in the conference advocated stronger collaboration and training within the sector, continued roll-out of natref systems in the commercial and industrial sectors and improving the efficiency of CO2-based systems in Australia’s warm-ambient temperatures.

The conference also showcased the government’s intent to address gaps within the industry with regard to training and standards to further cultivate the growth of the refrigeration trade within the country. The conference also highlighted the commitment of retailers and suppliers towards helping the country meet its energy objectives; participants shared their personal experiences in opting for natural refrigerants in supermarkets, industrial food processing and cold storage.

Participants presented a number of solutions to address challenges that come with the country’s warm-ambient temperature, as well as the efficiency of systems using natural refrigerants. Overall, the participants strongly expressed a commitment to promoting education and training in the field of natural refrigerants to help advance the sector, which is expected to expand in the coming years.

Crossing borders

Against the backdrop of increasing government support towards infrastructure, emphasis on energy security, and eagerness among stakeholders to drive pioneering products and solutions, Fraij believes that the country’s HVAC sector will continue with its positive momentum in the coming years and that there are a lot of opportunities in the horizon. He added that with regard to export markets, the growth is most noticeable in air conditioning, ventilation and hot water systems.

Fraij emphasised that the long-established practices within the country are leading to reliable products. In addition, he highlighted the many years of unique experience Australian manufacturers have in generating products that are suitable for operation in hostile ambient conditions. “Australian manufacturers have worked in this field since long before, due to the harsh climate in Australia, which is approximately similar to the Middle East climate,” he said. “We [Australian manufacturers] are bringing to the Middle East reliable products that can stand the extreme climate and are, at the same time, efficient and sustainable.” Fraij noted that Australian manufacturers are dedicated to developing products that not only meet the country’s high standards due to its harsh conditions, but also international needs.

Peli echoed this when he described how Seeley has had positive feedback from the Middle East market, owing to products designed and developed by the company to address the often unforgiving climate in the GCC region. To further address the needs of the region he said that Seeley also makes an effort to ensure the products are suitable in areas where only low power supply is available, as is prevalent in some areas in the GCC region.


1.Bloomberg, published in the May 9, 2017 edition of Gulf News

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