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Region: Africa

ECOFRIDGES Initiative leverages innovative financial mechanisms to enable adoption of efficient cooling products across Africa

U4E Programme officer says initiative looks at how best practices in Ghana and Senegal, in terms of policies and capacity building, can be scaled up across the region

Brian Holuj

PARIS, France, 29 July 2019: The main objective of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Refrigerators and Air Conditioners Initiative (ECOFRIDGES) is to use innovative financial mechanisms to enable consumers to better afford high-performing, energy-efficient cooling products using more climate-friendly refrigerants, said Brian Holuj, Programme Officer – United for Efficiency (U4E) initiative, Energy Unit, UN Environment. Holuj pointed out that U4E adopts a holistic approach in its mission to accelerate the switch to energy-efficient cooling products. Typically, he said, they focus on a country and convene top officials from neighbouring countries to encourage them to do something similar. In the ECOWAS region, he said, they are looking at best practices in Ghana and Senegal in terms of policies and are working with ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (ECREEE) to scale up projects across the region.

Following the kickoff meeting, Holuj said U4E conducted market assessments and feasibility studies on different kinds of financial mechanisms, considering economic and political frameworks vary greatly among countries. “We are trying to understand who the major actors are, the status of current and planned policies, and the type of equipment being sold,” he said

Holuj said that in Ghana, regulations are more straightforward, as the government has already implemented a market monitoring system. This is not the case for other developing countries, he said, where, commonly, there is no tracking of products sold, which allows for used and inefficient products to enter the market. “In Ghana, they banned importation of used appliances,” Holuj said, adding that U4E supports such initiatives to be implemented throughout the continent. “For products to come in through ports of entry, they had to have been tested and registered with the government, and the government maintains a database,” he said. “[This is a] collaborative effort between customs officials, border agents and the energy commission that helps oversee the system and data. It’s a cross-governmental effort to make sure products coming in are properly assessed.”

Holuj pointed out that although the purchase price for highly energy-efficient products is higher, the life cycle cost is significantly lower and that, through the initiative, U4E aims to tackle that first-cost barrier. “There is experience in Ghana already,” he said. “They did an interesting rebate scheme about five years ago, where they deployed quite a few energy-efficient refrigerators. We want to look at lessons learned and look at different types of financial mechanisms to promote efficient refrigeration.” Holuj said Ghana has also started recycling of refrigeration products and that U4E looks to scale up the recycling initiative to address air conditioners, as well and how such policies can be applied in Senegal and other countries, which have no targeted recycling programme for refrigerators and air conditioners.

Inception meeting of the ECOFRIDGES Project in Dakar, Senegal in May 2019.

In terms of energy efficiency requirements, Holuj confirmed that U4E will use seasonal performance metric for air conditioners, provided it is adapted according to the national context. “In the case of Ghana, they already have a MEPS system and labelling,” he said. “We want to tie that in with the existing approach the country has undertaken. We aim for something highly efficient for Ghana’s context. In terms of Senegal, they haven’t adopted labeling tiers yet, but again we want to set something highly efficient.”

Holuj said that U4E met with international standardisation bodies, as well, but that application depends on local application. “ECOWAS has been proactive in standards bodies in collaboration with ECREEE,” he said. “There is some alignment with policies in the products. For example, looking at common test procedures, common performance requirements and trying to take our cues from where they are and where they want to go next.”

Holuj said U4E actively engages with manufactures, usually through local and authorised dealers, to get feedback and discuss pathways towards compliance. “We tend to have public, private and civil society on the policy side, but you need input of all on financial mechanisms,” he said. “We want manufacturers to participate, but we are not trying to promote all ranges of products. We want manufacturers who are looking to sell highly energy-efficient products interested in this sort of thing. We don’t restrict – anyone can participate in these schemes as long as they meet a certain criteria.”

Holuj said that the exercise will not only provide more people with sustainable cooling solutions, it would create a business case for manufacturers to further invest in rolling out more efficient refrigeration and air conditioning equipment. “If the consumer has no idea that the product doesn’t use twice as much efficiency and if manufacturers aren’t receiving a clear policy or market signal, they would typically compete based on purchase and first cost,” he said. “We are trying to create a level playing field and transparency for manufacturers and trying to have more efficient products for consumers – it’s where labelling comes in, and then there have to be tests of products to make sure everyone is playing by the right rules.”

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