In The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, renowned for its sweltering summers and soaring demand for cooling, the HVACR industry assumes a critical role in shaping a sustainable and efficient future. The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), stands as an advocate for the HVACR industry in the region. Notably, manufacturers have recently come together under the AHRI MENA banner to inaugurate the AHRI MENA Standards Subcommittee, which will for the first time allow regional stakeholders to develop AHRI standards specific for the region.
In recent years, these manufacturers have recognised the surging demand for cooling solutions in the region, prompting a quest for products and technologies custom-tailored to the unique climate. Developing these advanced products necessitates an awareness of the ever-changing regional regulations, where several countries are poised to adopt more stringent Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEPS) while also striving to enhance building efficiency. To navigate these challenges, the establishment of a collaborative alliance between industry stakeholders and regulatory bodies becomes not merely a strategic imperative but an absolute necessity.
Historically, regulatory bodies in the MENA region have charted an independent course, with manufacturers having a limited role in shaping new HVAC systems regulations or standards. The semi-independent approach often led to significant challenges and unintended consequences. However, with the presence of a manufacturing association like AHRI, the establishment of the AHRI MENA Standards Subcommittee, and the active engagement of manufacturers, the path to collaboration has been paved. The new paradigm ensures that emerging standards or regulations undergo thorough scrutiny, and all essential requirements are addressed. At the heart of this process, manufacturers assume a pivotal role, contributing invaluable insights into the feasibility of technologies underpinning the regulations, potential ramifications on costs for consumers and the industry, and the practical timelines required for compliance.
A distinctive advantage inherent in this collaborative approach to the development of industry standards is the proactive participation of manufacturers in the technical committees associated with regional regulatory bodies. This strategic engagement empowers manufacturers to leverage their expertise and offer insights in shaping policies and regulations that prioritise energy efficiency and sustainability. Furthermore, in a closely knit partnership with AHRI MENA, manufacturers have committed themselves to elevating MEPS standards.
AHRI standards, acclaimed as the most precise by the World Trade Organization (WTO), enable countries referencing them to achieve desired energy savings through their MEPS programmes. The AHRI MENA Standards Subcommittee, its first outside North America, has already created four technical committees, focusing on unitary system, VRF, chiller and AHU programmes. More technical committees will be established to address other programmes in the future. The committees predominantly comprise manufacturers but also include other key stakeholders. Importantly, the committees are chaired by members from the manufacturing companies themselves, ensuring that industry experts steer the development and refinement of the standards. The primary mandate of the committees is to craft AHRI standards specifically tailored to the MENA region, drawing expertise and insights from regional stakeholders, a development welcomed by regulatory bodies. The standards formulated by the technical committees, developed for T3 (46 degrees C) ambient and other high-ambient conditions, will be deployed across the entire GCC region, promoting the harmonisation of requirements across all GCC region countries. In cases where MEPS already reference other standards, such as ISO standards, AHRI standards offer an additional “Multipath Approach” to compliance, augmenting the availability of additional verified energy-efficient equipment and technologies in the market.
The recent convening of the AHRI MENA industry leadership meeting in Dubai, in October 2023, served as a pivotal platform for industry C-level executives, spanning international and regional manufacturers, to congregate. The event underscored not only the pivotal role of manufacturers but also their leadership in propelling innovation, sustainability and global collaboration. The gathering, which included manufacturers from the 25 largest HVACR and water heating companies, wholeheartedly rallied behind AHRI’s initiatives, signifying the industry’s unwavering commitment to advancing sustainability across the region. Discussion extended to the HVAC industry’s involvement in COP28, spotlighting its indispensable role in tackling climate-related challenges. Manufacturers exhibited the desire to steer the MENA region towards a trajectory of net-zero emissions, firmly anchored in their commitment to formulating HVAC standards attuned to the region’s specific requirements. Additionally, the meeting cast a spotlight on the industry’s ongoing transition to alternative low Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerants and underscored the imperative of collaborating with regulators to navigate this transition seamlessly. Regulatory considerations, in general, assumed centrestage at the meeting, with dialogues underscoring the transformative impact of the evolving regulatory landscape on the industry’s trajectory. The conversations accentuated the pivotal role of certification and surveillance in upholding exacting standards and ensuring that products available in the region adhere to MEPS.