Masthead - Climate Control Journal

IEA releases ‘roadmap to net zero’ report

BERKELEY, California, 18 May 2021: The International Energy Agency (IEA) said it has published its first ever comprehensive roadmap to net-zero emissions by 2050. The report, it added, provides guidance for governments, companies, investors and the public on what is necessary to fully decarbonize the energy sector and lower greenhouse gas emissions to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The report, it said, comes after it received widespread criticism for systematically underestimating the pace of adoption of clean energy technologies, such as solar and wind, and substantially overestimating their costs. Critics, it said, argued that IEA projections had effectively acted as support for the fossil fuel industry’s business-as-usual operations.

In a significant shift, the IEA said, it today recognizes that on a net-zero pathway there can be no investment in new fossil fuel supply. This, it said, includes oil, gas and coal projects. The IEA said, it confirms that with the introduction of policy to achieve climate stabilization at 1.5 degrees, the fossil fuel sector will face significant demand reduction.

Danielle Fugere, President, As You Sow, responding to the release of the report, said: “This new net-zero scenario from the IEA finally aligns with investor expectations and makes abundantly clear to fossil fuel companies that they must set net-zero targets, develop a clear transition strategy, and evolve in step with the decarbonizing global economy. Standing in the way of progress is no longer acceptable for companies’ own enterprise success or for the global economy.”

Daniel Stewart, Senior Research Associate, As You Sow, said: “Until now, the IEA’s research has been used to play down transition risks faced by the fossil fuel industry and as a support for inadequate energy and climate policy. IEA’s new scenario firms up what investors already knew about the steps needed to achieve climate stabilization by mid-century. It demonstrates without a doubt that it is difficult but absolutely possible to contain the catastrophic impact of runaway climate change, and signals major disruption on the horizon for industries reliant on fossil fuels.”

JCI named to FT European Climate Leaders list

CORK, Ireland, 18 May 2021: Johnson Controls (JCI) said it has been named to the inaugural FT Climate Leaders in Europe list.

Europe’s Climate Leaders 2021 is a list of companies across Europe that have shown the highest reduction of their emission intensity – that is, core greenhouse gas emissions in relation to revenues, between 2014 and 2019. Johnson Controls reported that it was one of only 300 companies selected from 4,000 across Europe.

“We are extremely proud to be recognized by the Financial Times as a European climate leader,” said George Oliver, chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls. “Sustainability has long been at the heart of everything we do, and it is an honor to be included on this prestigious list. With COP26 approaching at this critical moment in the battle against climate change, it is important that companies continue to play their part in cutting emissions and delivering clean, sustainable solutions across the entire value chain.”

According to JCI, companies on the list – compiled by research firm, Statista – were invited to submit emissions reported following the emission categories of the greenhouse gas protocol (scope 1, 2 and 3). In addition, Statista scrutinized publicly available data, mainly from financial and non-financial reports as well as from CDP (formerly the “Carbon Disclosure Project”).

Although JCI reports all three emissions scopes, the ranking only considers scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, since not all companies publish their scope 3 emissions, it said. Since 2002, JCI said, it has reduced its emissions intensity by more than 70% – equivalent to the carbon sequestered by 17,000 acres of forest. The company said it has also helped its customers save more than 30.6 million tonnes of CO2 globally and $6.6 million through guaranteed operational savings.

At the European level, JCI said, it has been effectively supporting the EU’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050. The European Commission recently committed to at least 55% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels) by 2030 under the European Green Deal. Decarbonizing Europe’s building stock through the European Commission’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive has a crucial role to play in this effort – 40% of greenhouse gases come from buildings, the company said.

According to JCI, digitalization has been recognized as a key enabler for the building renovation wave in Europe and the rest of the world. Already, JCI said, it has been deploying its OpenBlue digital platform for optimizing buildings sustainability across its entire value chain – drastically improving the company’s own environmental impact and helping customers consume less energy, conserve resources and identify pathways to achieving healthy, net zero carbon communities.

Katie McGinty, Vice President & Chief Sustainability, Government and Regulatory Affairs Officers, JCI, said: “We are making positive change within our own corporation and believe we are uniquely positioned to help customers and suppliers achieve their sustainability goals. By driving global change, we are ultimately creating an environment for healthy people, healthy places and a healthy planet.”

JCI said it is also helping meet the growing demand for energy-efficient technologies. It said it has provided heat pump solutions for customers at more than a dozen district heating and cooling applications in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy and Norway.

Heat pumps, it said, have an important role to play in decarbonizing buildings and industry. They have long been in the DNA of industrial refrigeration – utilised in food and beverage, dairy and other process industries for reclaiming low-temperature waste heat and turning it into low-cost, high-temperature heat.

VC funds, Hollywood stars invest heavily in climate change innovation

CHICAGO, Illinois, 18 May 2021: The year 2021 has already seen multiple climate-focused fund launches. London-based One Planet Capital launched a fund for green tech, fintech and sustainability-based B2C businesses, while Hollywood ‘Iron Man’ actor, Robert Downey Jr has founded FootPrint Coalition Ventures to invest in high-growth, sustainability-focused companies.

Robert Downey Jr

The financial world used to think environmental issues couldn’t generate viable rewards, but another climate-focused fund, Congruent Ventures, believes a tipping point has been passed. 

Congruent raises investment specifically for Climate Change solution start-ups and, with USD 300 million under management after closing its second fund at USD 175 million, Managing Partner and Co-Founder, Abe Yokell, said: “If you brought up the word ‘cleantech’ to any institutional investor allocating to venture 10 years ago, they would do their best to avoid the meeting, but now, there’s a fundamental belief there will be significant financial returns investing broadly in climate tech over time.”

Congruent’s portfolio includes electric vehicle-charging provider, Amply, which raised USD 13.2 million last year from investors, including Soros Fund Management and Siemens. Digitally controllable electrical panel company, Span raised USD 20 million in January through Congruent, with investors including Munich Re Ventures’ HSB Fund and Amazon’s Alexa Fund.

And Congruent itself is well-founded, with investors including UC Investments, the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Three Cairns Group, Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust and Surdna Foundation, among other institutions, foundations and family offices.

Regulation A+ crowdfunding companies are also seeing investment, such as digital twins company, Cityzenith, who recently launched their international ‘Clean Cities, Clean Future’ campaign as part of the Race to Zero movement.

Cities worldwide generate 70% of the world’s carbon emissions, but Cityzenith’s AI Digital Twin platform technology can help property asset management groups, city planners and developers reduce emissions and move to carbon neutrality in the next 10 years. 

Michael Jansen, CEO, Cityzenith, said at the launch of the ‘Clean Cities – Clean Future’ initiative: “We have to help the most polluted urban centers become carbon neutral, and we plan to do this by donating the company’s Digital Twin platform, SmartWorldOS to key cities, one at a time, after every USD 1 million we raise. We’re able to do this because of the recent surge of investment we’ve had as part of our USD 15m raise.”

Cityzenith is already benefiting from the funding shift, reportedly attracting USD 2.5 million in investment since late 2020 through Regulation A+ crowdfunding and a surge in shares from USD 0.575 to USD 1.50 in just five months. The US company has raised USD 10 million to date.

Jansen said: “In the past decade, investors struggled to justify backing Climate Change solutions, but global demand for net-zero carbon by 2050 and a sustainable future means a tipping point has been passed.

“Products, such as our own SmartWorldOS™, which monitors and collects data on future and existing building assets, so construction and maintenance can occur at optimal efficiency, will be essential to reducing carbon emissions and energy waste. We must invest in climate solutions now so that we can protect our planet sooner and more effectively.

“We’ve seen a significant amount of interest in our current USD 15m raise from accredited investors in recent months, as there are tangible, financial upsides in the built-environment to going climate-friendly, and carbon credits are going to become an enormous part of this in the next few years.”

European-based fund 2150 also launched this year, investing €200m (USD 240 million) into start-ups developing sustainable technologies to lower carbon emissions in Europe’s cities.

Co-founder Christian Hernandez has seen a shift in perceptions, too. He said: “There are enough proof points now that those two (profitable investments and investing in climate solutions) can coexist.”

AHRI Board approves decarbonization general position statement

ARLINGTON, Virginia, 18 May 2021: The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) on May 14 released a General Position Statement on Decarbonization, advancing the association as a resource for states and localities grappling with how to successfully, sustainably and affordably reduce emissions related to the built-environment.

AHRI revealed the paper as noting, “The air conditioning, heating, ventilation, refrigeration, and water heating industry has a long history of providing innovative, high-quality, energy-saving, affordable products that enhance the comfort, safety, health, and productivity of businesses and people around the world”. It expresses AHRI’s support for “the ongoing, science-based transition to a lower carbon society, in which consumer choices for heating, cooling, water heating, and commercial refrigeration are the most energy efficient, environmentally beneficial available anywhere in the world, while maintaining appropriate and adequate levels of safety, health, comfort, and affordability”.

Stephen Yurek, President & CEO, AHRI, said: “Our member companies – which have more than 100 years of experience and expertise in product solutions, technology, and innovation – can serve as a valuable resource in helping the nation achieve a lower carbon society.”

The statement, AHRI said, comes on the heels of the success of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, passed by Congress in 2020, which provides authority to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the production of high-global warming potential hydrofluorocarbons and establishes a national phase down structure for the refrigerants that are widely used in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. That effort, AHRI said, more than 10 years in the making for the industry, is forecast to ultimately result in a 0.5 degree reduction in global temperatures over the next 30 years, even as it creates jobs and helps the industry’s global trade posture.

Green Building Alliance, UN’s partners receive International Climate Initiative Award

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, 21 April 2021: Green Building Alliance (GBA) announced an international collaboration led by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to develop a USD 24 million project to improve the energy efficiency of the global building supply chain and its products to deliver high performance buildings. The International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety awarded this project, signaling the advancement of a planning phase and full proposal. The launch of the project was announced on April 21 by Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker at the UNECE’s 69th Commission meeting.

According to GBS, the award solidifies the Greater Pittsburgh region as a global leader in the expeditious innovation of technologies, products and training aimed at curbing carbon emissions and creating healthy, sustainable buildings. The project presents an opportunity to work with international leaders in the field to identify solutions and strategies, and then implement best practices for the Pittsburgh region. GBA said the IKI award, in conjunction with Pittsburgh’s designation as a UN International Center of Excellence on High Performance Building, confirms GBA as a leader in providing solutions to improve the built environment thereby positively impacting climate change, human health, social equity, and a thriving economy.

“Funding high-performance buildings and retrofitting existing buildings can rapidly reinvigorate local economies, supporting or creating quality jobs through the entire building supply chain while delivering on long-term quality of life for everyone,” said Scott Foster, Director of Sustainable Energy, UNECE, about this innovative work. “Given its size and its history both as a coal-mining and steel-making center and as an example of urban rebirth, Pittsburgh has a lot to offer the cities of the world in terms of its experience and know-how.”

GBA said it is eager to begin the important work. “It is an honor to play such an important role in the US commitment to climate and infrastructure and the need to rapidly transform the building industry,” said Jenna Cramer, Executive Director, GBA. “We have an opportunity to build upon our 28-year history of making Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region a leadership hub for green buildings and sustainable products. This project is part of our efforts with the Greater Pittsburgh International Center of Excellence, a public private partnership that uniquely positions organizations, researchers, companies, and governments to collectively problem-solve for our region’s future while also connecting on a global platform to share best practices and advance solutions.”

According to GBA, the building and construction sector plays a key role in addressing global issues, including significant emissions reductions, improved energy security and increased circular economy. The sector is integral to achieving the Paris Agreement goals, as it is responsible for approximately 40% of energy- and process-related emissions. The project kick-off will take place in May 2021. Led by UNECE, other partners include UN Environment, UN Development Programme (UNDP) offices in select countries, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), Passivhaus Institute (Germany), and the Technical University of Denmark. GBA is the only partner in the United States.

The Greater Pittsburgh Center of Excellence current partners include Allegheny County, City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PJ Dick, Fourth Economy, Duquesne Light, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Covestro, Partner4Work, Innovation Works, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, other nonprofits, and professionals.

President Biden invites JCI’s CEO to speak at Leaders Summit on Climate

MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin, 21 April 2021: Johnson Controls (JCI) announced that George Oliver, its Chairman and CEO has been invited by U.S. President Joe Biden to participate in the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate.

Making the announcement through a Press release, JCI said the summit will bring together leaders of the world’s major economies and other vital partners for an urgent and open dialog on ways to strengthen collective efforts to address the climate crisis. President Biden has made tackling climate change a top national priority since taking office and is urging other world leaders to attend the summit to discuss how their governments will help drive the goal of limiting global temperature rise.

“I am honored to accept President Biden`s invitation to join him and other world leaders calling for urgent climate action,” Oliver said. “It is especially important to establish a roadmap to limiting the rise of global temperatures as we get closer to the COP26 climate conference, scheduled for November in Glasgow. Transitioning to a lower-carbon economy is an opportunity to build back better, as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing clean, sustainable and energy-efficient solutions creates jobs while building strong, resilient global economies.”

According to the White House, a major theme of the summit will be the broad economic benefits of climate action, with a strong focus on job creation. This will explore both the economic benefits of green recovery and long-term decarbonization and the importance of ensuring that all communities and workers benefit from the transition to a clean energy economy.

Representing both Business Roundtable and Johnson Controls, Oliver will address these topics in a session on April 23 as well as the role buildings can play to slash both emissions and costs, JCI said.

Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of America’s leading companies. According to JCI, Oliver was named Chair of the Business Roundtable Energy & Environment Committee in January this year. The Committee is dedicated to advancing policies that encourage innovation and support an environmentally and economically sustainable future.

The vast majority of Business Roundtable’s 223-member CEOs have made public commitments to reduce their companies’ greenhouse gas emissions/carbon footprints, are making serious progress and reporting on it publicly. Nearly half of those commitments are for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, if not sooner.

According to JCI, Business Roundtable members are playing a significant role in driving ambitious climate action and the policy needed to spur low-carbon economic growth. Last September, JCI said, the organization endorsed the goals of the Paris Agreement and proposed aggressive policies to achieve those goals.

JCI said its own ambitious emissions reductions targets were recently approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative – an independent organization that assesses corporate sustainability claims. JCI said that as part of its environmental sustainability commitments, it aims to cut operational emissions by 55% and reduce customers’ emissions by 16% before 2030. It said it believes its OpenBlue platform for optimizing building sustainability will be central to fulfilling these goals and ultimately creating an environment for healthy people, healthy places and a healthy planet.

JCI said it also recently joined the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign and is a signatory to The Climate Pledge, an initiative of business leaders co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism. Signatories to the pledge commit to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 – 10 years ahead of the Paris Climate Agreement goal.

Eurovent Middle East joins Cool Coalition

DUBAI, UAE, 20 April 2021: Eurovent Middle East has become a member of the Cool Coalition, a global initiative led by UN Environment and the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Programme, the HVACR industry association said through a Press release. The initiative promotes a holistic and cross-sectoral approach to meet the cooling needs of industrialised and developing countries through better building design, energy efficiency, renewables, and thermal storage as well as phasing down refrigerants with a high global warming potential, Eurovent said.

The Cool Coalition is a global multi-stakeholder network that connects a wide range of key actors from governments, cities, international organisations, businesses, finance, academia and civil society groups to facilitate knowledge exchange, advocacy and joint action towards a rapid global transition to efficient and climate-friendly cooling. The Cool Coalition is currently working with over 100 partners, including 23 countries.

Markus Lattner, Managing Director, Eurovent Middle East, said: “The Middle East stands like no other region for the essential role of cooling and refrigeration for a successful socio-economic development. Eurovent Middle East has been established to provide crucial coordination between governments, industry and service providers and to build up competence in cooling and refrigeration within the region. We have joined the Cool Coalition, as we fully believe that it will be by cooperation and collaboration that we are able to transform societies towards a responsible and sustainable use of resources. We are proud to join other organisations from our region and strengthen the role of the Middle East in this global initiative.“

Lily Riahi, Cool Coalition Coordinator at UNEP, said: “To put the cooling sector on a path to net-zero emissions, we need everyone on board. The Cool Coalition is thrilled to welcome Eurovent Middle East among its members. Together, we can transform the sector and put it on a path to decarbonisation, in line to global climate targets and sustainable development goals.”

AHRI, others petition EPA on HFC phase-down rule

ARLINGTON, Virginia, 13 April 2021: The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration institute (AHRI) today joined more than 35 other industry and environmental organizations in petitioning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking uniform national standards for stationary air conditioning and commercial refrigeration equipment in the transition to climate-friendly refrigerants under the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act. If promulgated, these standards will result in an additional half billion tons of CO2 reduction, over and above what already is projected to be achieved by implementation of the AIM Act, AHRI said through a Press release.

The federal standards sought by the AHRI petition align with similar standards already in place in nine states. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) submitted similar petitions under the AIM Act, AHRI pointed out.

For new residential and light-commercial central air conditioning equipment, the petition, AHRI said, seeks a regulation requiring that equipment manufacturers use refrigerants with a global warming potential (GWP) of 750 or less in equipment made after January 1, 2025, with the exception of variable refrigerant flow (VRF) equipment, whose deadline would be January 1, 2026. These transition dates would align the country with the dates adopted in December 2020 by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and nine additional Climate Alliance states, AHRI said.

For commercial refrigeration and chiller equipment, the petition seeks the GWP limits and transition dates according to the table below:

Through these petitions, AHRI said, a broad variety of stakeholders, including itself, hope to demonstrate that sufficient consensus already exists and that a regular notice and comment rulemaking would adequately represent all material interests, thereby allowing the agency to forego the negotiated rulemaking process it must consider – but is not required to undertake – for such petitions, pursuant to the AIM Act.

AHRI said its petition emphasizes that as a general matter, “the U.S. HVACR industry already is proceeding with the requested transition date as its goal; granting this petition provides order and structure to the market and streamlines industry preparation”.

The transition dates contained in its petition, AHRI said, allow “sufficient time for careful planning and preparation, both to avoid excessive costs that can unduly burden consumers, and to ensure all safety and other associated standards can be met”, according to the petition. “For example, contractors and technicians must receive appropriate training, state and local building codes must be updated and changed, and supply chains and distribution networks must be modified,” AHRI said.

“While AHRI has long believed that an earlier transition would not allow enough time for manufacturers to prepare, we have been equally clear that a later transition date would put long-term compliance with the AIM Act at risk,” said Stephen Yurek, AHRI President & CEO. “Aligning these dates also reduces costs for consumers and ensures long-term availability of energy-, environment-, and life-saving refrigerants for climate control and for the cold chain for food, vaccines, and other medicines.”

AHRI, the U.S. Department of Energy, CARB and other stakeholders have invested more than USD 7 million in research into alternative refrigerants in preparation for this transition, AHRI said, These more climate-friendly alternatives, it added, are in use today in Europe, Australia, Japan, Thailand and in more than 90% of new passenger vehicles currently sold in the United States.

Johnson Controls releases 2021 Sustainability Report

CORK, Ireland, 10 April 2021: Johnson Controls on April 9 published its 2021 Sustainability Report, highlighting its new environmental, social and governance commitments and progress towards the company’s sustainability goals, the company said through a Press release.

George Oliver, Chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls, said: “At Johnson Controls, sustainability is our business. This year saw us continue to pioneer new and important paths to sustainability, including our issuance of a green bond in the U.S. capital markets – among the very first industrials to do so.

“We welcome and embrace the enhanced attention and urgency around tackling climate change and making gains across environmental, social and governance pillars. We are determined to strengthen and further build our culture of diversity and inclusion.

“Our bold new sustainability commitments demonstrate we are all-in to help drive healthy buildings, healthy people and a healthy planet for our employees, shareholders, customers and all of our stakeholders.”

According to Johnson Controls, highlights of the report include:

  • New ambitious sustainability commitments that outline the company’s priority to make positive changes in lowering its company footprint, such as achieving net zero carbon emissions before 2040.
  • Its first-ever Sustainability Report that includes and fully integrates its first-ever diversity and inclusion report, highlighting its D&I commitment, mission, vision, pillars and progress.
  • Its goal to double its customers’ emission reductions through implementation of its OpenBlue digitally enabled solutions by 2030.
  • Its intention to double the representation of women leaders globally and minority leaders in the United States over the next five years.
  • Its green financing initiatives, including a green bond – one of the first industrial companies to issue a green bond in U.S. debt capital markets – and a senior revolving credit facility tied to specific sustainability metrics
  • Executive compensation that is linked to sustainability and diversity performance goals
  • The appointment of the company’s first Chief Sustainability Officer and the formation of a Governance and Sustainability board of directors’ committee
  • Performance contracting projects that have helped its customers avoid more than 30.6 million metric tons CO2e and save USD 6.6 billion through energy and operational savings since January 2000.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions intensity reduction of more than 70% since 2002.
  • Our commitment to The Climate Pledge, co-founded by Amazon and Global Optimism, to reach net-zero

UAE, US commit to jointly tackle climate challenge

ABU DHABI, UAE, 5 April 2021: The United Arab Emirates and the United States announced their joint commitment to tackle the climate challenge in a Joint Statement that stresses the importance and urgency of raising global climate ambition. Both countries announced their intent to cooperate on new investments in financing decarbonisation across the MENA region and beyond, and to focus on assisting the most vulnerable adapt to the effects of climate change.

H.E. Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and the UAE’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, said: “Together with the US, the UAE has affirmed that decisive, proactive climate action can be an engine for economic growth and sustainable development. Building on the legacy and experience of the UAE, which has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to sustainable development and today operates three of the world’s largest solar facilities, we will focus, together with the US, on joint efforts on renewable energy, hydrogen, industrial decarbonization, carbon capture and storage, nature-based solutions, and low-carbon urban design.

“The UAE is rich in opportunities with the world’s lowest solar power costs, and significant carbon capture investments. We look forward to sharing our experience with the international community to turn climate action into economic opportunity.”

Noting the progress made by many leading companies, both countries agreed to work closely with the private sector to mobilize the necessary investment and technology resources needed to stem the climate crisis and support the economy.

At the national level, the United States and the United Arab Emirates confirmed their intent to work towards decarbonising their economies according to their national circumstances and economic development plans, including reducing carbon emissions by 2030.

The United States and the United Arab Emirates stressed their commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and promote the success of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.

The Joint Statement emerges from the UAE Regional Dialogue for Climate Action, held on April 4. The event convened climate leaders from across the MENA region and unveiled a new era of cooperation in the region for a future focused on prosperity through climate policy, investment, innovation and sustainable economic growth.

The Dialogue drew the participation of high-level dignitaries from across the region as well as critical global partners and organisations. Participants included COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma and US Special Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, together with ministers and high-level representatives from the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, Sudan and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). The event further reinforced the UAE’s regional climate leadership, providing a common ground for participating nations to build a shared vision for climate action ahead of COP26.

GEA speaks of improving plant efficiency, reducing carbon emissions

DUESSELDORF, Germany, 12 February 2021: Potential energy savings of up to 30% and a significant reduction in CO2 emissions by as much as 90% or even 100% – that’s what its Sustainable Energy Solutions (SEnS), which integrates processes and utilities (refrigeration and heating) solutions, can help in developing optimisation strategies for customers in diverse industries, GEA said through a Press release. Numerous successfully completed SEnS projects from GEA show that these optimisations reduce the customer’s energy footprint and running costs, without compromising output or the bottom line, GEA added.

Kai Becker
Source: GEA

According to the United Nations, energy efficiency offers a potential 40% of the emission reductions required to help meet global climate goals, GEA pointed out. Due to a growing number of rules and regulations and its own climate targets, there is an absolute need for the industry to reduce its carbon footprint and become more energy-efficient, overall, it said. With cooling and heating traditionally accounting for anywhere between 50% and 90% of a plant’s entire energy consumption, it’s the ideal starting point for GEA’s SEnS initiative, it added.

GEA said its SEnS offering is a culmination of a broad processing portfolio and years of industry know-how, combined with extensive refrigeration expertise. “SEnS supports customers in the food processing, dairy and beverage industries, helping them achieve their climate goals by making them more sustainable,” said Kai Becker, CEO, Refrigeration Technology Division, GEA. As a global industrial technology provider, GEA said, it will continue to strengthen its SEnS offering in 2021. Using the SEnS approach, GEA said it will promote the increased adoption of sustainable solutions, which drive down energy consumption and reduce carbon emissions while helping customers from diverse industry sectors slash their operational costs.

Ulrich Walk
Source: GEA

Ulrich Walk, Chief Service Officer (CSO) – Refrigeration Technologies, said: “GEA has developed a structured holistic and proven approach that begins with analysing the customer’s precise energy requirements, then making process optimizations and including utilities in the equation. By connecting heat pump technology to manufacturing processes, the GEA experts ensure energy is moving circularly, rather than being wasted.”

According to GEA, each SEnS project includes a single point of contact, enabling customers to achieve genuine and proven reductions in energy consumption and their carbon footprint. The SEnS process, the company said, is backed up by a cross-functional engineering team, with experts from dairy, food or beverage processing, as required, as well as team members with refrigeration (heating & cooling) expertise in diverse processing industries. Each project, it added, considers the customer’s business parameters and ambitions, formulated as measurable KPIs, against which the installation must deliver.

ENGIE in “sustainable” server cooling initiative

LINDAU ON LAKE CONSTANCE, Germany 5 February 2021: ENGIE Refrigeration spoke of how it intends to install a thermeco2 high-temperature heat pump of machine type HHR 130 with a heating capacity of 100 kilowatts at the Ludwigsburg District Office, in Baden-Württemberg, in Germany. The company added that the model is especially eco-friendly, partly because it utilises the natural refrigerant CO2 and partly because it provides cold and heat simultaneously. ENGIE added that it has also conceptually overhauled the thermeco2 – the heat pump now contains a filter dryer and more control options.

The administrative campus of the District Office is home to almost all the important specialist departments in the Swabian district. Various services for the citizens of Ludwigsburg are provided there with the aid of digital tools. This requires a powerful IT infrastructure, which is why the District Office maintains an in-house data centre, ENGIE said. Ambient temperature plays an essential role in reliable operation. As the server racks generate a large amount of heat, the refrigeration supply must function smoothly around the clock. In the summer of 2019, it became clear that action was needed here. “The existing R22 refrigeration system was outdated and needed to be fully modernized,” said Frank Glaser, Key Account Manager for Heating Applications at ENGIE Refrigeration. “As the Ludwigsburg District Office attaches great importance to a sustainable refrigeration solution, it chose the thermeco2 high-temperature heat pump from ENGIE Refrigeration.”

The District Office intends to operate in climate-neutral fashion from 2025, ENGIE said. To achieve this, it wants to use a photovoltaic system and a combined heat and power system to produce and consume its own electricity in future.

ENGIE said it is supporting the District Office on its path towards climate neutrality with sustainable server cooling. “The Ludwigsburg District Office requires heat uncoupling in a challenging temperature range: High outlet temperatures of up to 90 degrees Celsius, and a low inlet temperature of 38 degrees Celsius,” Glaser said. “Our thermeco2 high-temperature heat pump unfolds its full potential under these conditions, while alternative solutions could only achieve this with a great deal of technical and primary energy expenditure.”

A thermeco2 high-temperature heat pump. Source: ENGIE Refrigeration GmbH

The heat pump will be installed at the District Office in March 2021 and will then provide the baseload refrigeration for year-round server cooling, ENGIE said. Furthermore, the heat pump will cool the administrative building in the winter months and, thanks to its heat recovery function, simultaneously provide heat for heating the building, for heating drinking water and for conditioning the recirculated air in the server rooms, the company added. This makes the refrigeration solution especially sustainable, which is why it is subsidised by the state. Additional chillers and boilers are available for peak loads in hot or cold weather, ENGIE said.

With its machine design, the heat pump adapts easily to local conditions, ENGIE claimed. The heat pump uses the natural refrigerant CO2 as its refrigerant. It is extremely safe (safety class A1) and, therefore, involves few safety-related requirements for the installation space, the company said. In addition, CO2 is non-combustible and non-toxic, and it does not contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer or to the greenhouse effect, the company added. In total, the heat pump will save 38.4 tons of CO2 per year when compared to the existing refrigeration system – fully in line with the sustainability strategy of the District Office, the company further added.

ENGIE said it has subjected the heat pump to fundamental enhancements, which will now take effect for the first time in the machine for the District Office. “As of now, we will be relying on our tried-and-tested QUANTUM electrical components in the thermeco2 as well,” Glaser said. “In addition, the filter dryer will become the standard. It keeps the refrigerant circuit clean and dry and, thus, counteracts the decay of the chiller oil, corrosion and further contamination. This allows us to keep the performance of the system at a constant high level.” In addition, the company said, the heat pump weighs around 10% less than the previous model, thanks to its optimised design, smaller switch cabinet and soldered connections instead of flange connections.

JCI unveils sustainability commitments

CORK, Ireland, 29 January 2021: Johnson Controls (JCI) announced new environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments, science-based targets as well as a net-zero-carbon pledge to support a healthy, more sustainable planet over the next two decades. Making the announcement through a Press release, the company said its emissions reduction drive and that of its customers will be powered by its OpenBlue technologies and innovations, which leverage big data and artificial intelligence to optimise buildings sustainability.

“Sustainability is at the heart of our business and fundamental to everything that we do as a company,” said George Oliver, Chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls. “Today’s announcement reinforces our continued commitment to developing best-in-class climate solutions, and OpenBlue will empower our customers to streamline building operations and uncover energy efficiencies that will help meet their environmental goals. We continue to make sustainability a top priority for the company, our customers and our suppliers, and have set ambitious goals that will drive significant improvements in carbon emissions.”

The launch of the new commitments, the company said, will enable it to deliver quantifiable efforts to reduce carbon emissions, drive climate-focused innovation and work closely with customers and suppliers to meet sustainability goals as well as measurable impact against its three key OpenBlue healthy building pillars: healthy people, healthy places and a healthy planet. These commitments, it added, are:

Environmental Sustainability Commitments:

  • Set science-based targets consistent with the most ambitious 1.5 degrees C Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenario
  • Reduce Johnson Controls’ operational emissions by 55% and reduce customers’ emissions by 16% before 2030
  • Achieve net-zero-carbon emissions before 2040, in line with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Race to Zero and Business Ambition for 1.5 degrees C criteria
  • Invest 75% of new product development R&D in climate-related innovation to develop sustainable products and services
  • Achieve 100% renewable electricity usage globally by 2040

Customer and supply chain commitments:

  • Double annual avoided emissions by 2030 through customer use of Johnson Controls’ OpenBlue digitally enabled products and services
  • Create a supplier sustainability council with cohorts of suppliers, and their tier-one suppliers, and provide suppliers with training on sustainability best practices and OpenBlue digital tools in order to meet ambitious, public sustainability goals
  • Weight sustainability equal to other key metrics in supplier performance evaluations and provide a preference for suppliers with excellent sustainability ratings

Social and Governance Sustainability Commitments:

  • Intends to double the representation of women leaders globally and minority leaders in the United States within five years
  • Launch an initiative to educate the next generation of diverse sustainable building industry leaders, in partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
  • Include sustainability and diversity goals in senior leaders’ performance assessments, which are linked to executive compensation to drive accountability
  • Launch an initiative focused on underserved markets and increase Johnson Controls’ spend with women- and minority-owned businesses

Katie McGinty, Vice President & Chief Sustainability, Government and Regulatory Affairs Officer, JCI, said: “Our commitments reinforce the urgency to make positive changes that will improve the health of our planet, and we believe we are uniquely positioned to help customers and suppliers achieve their sustainability goals, in addition to our own. We are excited to step up the role we play and will continue to innovate and uncover new pathways to meet our goals which will contribute to healthier people, healthier places and a healthier planet.”

Ministry of Climate Change and Environment launches policies to boost UAE’s sustainability agenda

ABU DHABI, UAE, 24 January 2021: His Excellency Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, launched new initiatives and policies to boost the UAE’s sustainability agenda, the Ministry said through a Press release.  The launch happened during the annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), the Ministry added.

The Minister highlighted the importance of driving coordinated action to expedite the energy transition and increase the share of renewables in the countries’ energy mix at the opening ceremony of the 11th Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). He reflected on the UAE’s journey in deploying renewables at home and abroad, leading to a considerable surge in its domestic production capacity, as well as playing an effective and distinct role in reducing the cost of renewable energy worldwide.

At the Ministerial Plenary Meeting on National Energy Planning and Implementation for Fostering Energy Transition, Dr Al Nuaimi presented the UAE’s new climate ambitions, set out in its second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. He noted that the NDC fell under the country’s national economic and energy diversification drive, manifested in its current energy transition.

Moreover, Dr Al Nuaimi delivered the closing remarks at the first joint meeting to prepare for two landmark UN summits that will take place in New York in September 2021 – the Food Systems Summit and the High-level Dialogue on Energy. The participants proposed targets, policies, initiatives, and other outcomes for the summits that have simultaneous food, energy and climate benefits.

At a panel session, titled ‘COP26 – a Crucial Stepping Stone on the Path to a Sustainable Global Recovery’, the Minister stressed that the UN Climate Change Conference 2021 (COP26) is a timely opportunity for leaders to resume climate negotiations and work on a shared vision for raising climate ambition in the context of a green recovery.

He pointed out that throughout the tough times posed by COVID-19, the UAE has remained dedicated to accelerating its transition to a green economy, as part of its recovery plans, and has taken great strides along this path, including moving forward with its renewables and nuclear projects.

At the third edition of the Abu Dhabi Sustainable Finance Forum, His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi announced the launch of the UAE Sustainable Finance Framework 2021-2031 in partnership with Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). Pioneered by the Ministry, the national framework supports the mobilisation of private capital towards low-carbon, environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient investments.

With the aim of ensuring the UAE emerges as a leader in climate knowledge, the Minister launched the UAE Climate Change Research Network that brings together a group of committed scientists and researchers to advance climate data collection and policy-relevant research on climate change impacts and adaptation. The Network presents opportunities for climate scientists in the UAE to engage with one another and with their peers from other countries as well as to facilitate research collaborations.

Dr Al Nuaimi also unveiled the inaugural edition of The UAE State of Climate Report, which provides an overview of the state of knowledge on historical and projected climate changes and their impacts on the UAE and the wider Arabian Gulf region.

On the sidelines of ADSW 2021, the Minister opened the winners’ announcement of the third edition of the Global Innovation Award (GIA), organised by Globally on behalf of MOCCAE. The competition aims to attract innovations from around the world to the UAE to support the country in its quest to become a world leader in sustainable development. This year’s GIA received a record number of applications – more than 1,200 from 65 countries. The winner was Cambrian Innovation, from the United States, with its innovative waste-to-energy solution that purifies wastewater while producing energy from the contaminants.

JCI CEO named Chair of Business Roundtable Energy & Environment Committee

CORK, Ireland, 19 January 2021: Johnson Controls (JCI) announced that George Oliver, its Chairman and CEO, will be serving as Chair of the Energy & Environment Committee of the Business Roundtable.

Making the announcement through a Press release, JCI described the Business Roundtable as an association of chief executive officers of America’s leading companies. Through research and advocacy, Business Roundtable supports policies to spur job creation, improve US competitiveness and strengthen the economy, the company said. Its Energy & Environment Committee is dedicated to advancing policies that encourage innovation and support an environmentally and economically sustainable future, it added.

As the incoming Biden administration prepares to put clean energy at the heart of the US economic recovery, such business-led initiatives will be key in helping the new administration meet its proposed goals, the company said.

“I am honored to be selected as Chair of the Energy & Environment Committee and look forward to working with my fellow CEOs to support policies that preserve our environment and maximize our energy options,” Oliver said. “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the planet today. Business Roundtable believes that businesses are an essential part of the solution and calls for collective action and policies to drive innovation, significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global temperature rise.”

Minister of Climate Change and Environment confirms UAE’s new NDC is part of its economic, energy diversification drive

DUBAI, UAE, 19 January, 2021: His Excellency Dr Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, today participated in the Ministerial Plenary Meeting on National Energy Planning and Implementation for Fostering Energy Transition as part of the 11th Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Ministry said through a Press release.

The virtual session provided an opportunity to discuss emerging experience in reinforcing energy planning and implementation at the national level, and aligning it with global climate action and goals through the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the Ministry said.

Highlighting the new targets set as part of the UAE’s NDC, His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi said: “With the support of our stakeholders, we were able to increase our ambition to reduce carbon emissions to 23.5% compared to business as usual for the year 2030. This translates into absolute emission reduction of about 70 million tons. Our clean power capacity is on track to reach 14 GW by 2030, from 125 MW in 2015 and 2.4 GW at present. To date, we have invested more than USD 40 billion in clean energy projects locally.

“While the approval and implementation of the NDC is a key milestone, it’s only one step in the right direction. The move falls under our national economic and energy diversification drive, manifested in the country’s current energy transition.”

The Minister reiterated the UAE’s commitment to doing its part to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, and joining forces with the rest of the world to fight climate change.

His Excellency Dr Al Nuaimi also participated in a press briefing organized by IRENA alongside His Excellency Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA, and Her Excellency Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, Permanent Representative of the UAE to IRENA.

Addressing members of the media, the Minister commended the role of IRENA in facilitating and guiding the decarbonisation efforts of its members around the world, and its significant contribution to the growth of the renewables market. Furthermore, he praised the Agency for providing its expertise to assist countries in revising their NDCs over the past year with a focus on increasing the share of renewables in national pledges.

He added: “The work of IRENA couldn’t be more important. Renewable energy holds the solution to many of the issues the world faces today, such as climate change, air pollution, and economic slowdown. Therefore, its deployment should be a key item on the world’s sustainability agenda, along with leveraging cutting-edge technologies and artificial intelligence to ensure we respond smartly, promptly, and efficiently to the most pressing challenges.”

Building for the “new normal”

As the world continues to grapple with an ever-shifting economic landscape, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, stakeholders in the building sector across the GCC region have observed how the pandemic has triggered an evaluation and reassessment of priorities. Ashok Jha, Head FM and Retrofit Projects, Universal Voltas, points out that the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19 has prompted many organisations to take actions they have been putting off for some time, including launching new digital services and evolving their business models, enabling greater flexibility in their working and implementing cost optimisation measures.

However, Jha says, perhaps the most notable trend would be the move towards a greater number of retrofit projects in the region. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the oil prices plummeted to one of the lowest levels and government revenues went down in the GCC region,” he says. “This has led to reduced spending across all sectors, including new construction, with the current market seeing greater push towards shallow retrofitting, deep retrofitting, energy conservation and reducing the building carbon footprint in the existing buildings to make them more sustainable.” Jha says that since the number of existing buildings in Oman, Kuwait and the UAE is very high compared to new buildings, there was also a need to address the physical deterioration of the buildings, due to functional and economic obsolescence, and to make them more sustainable. “Because of this, there is a surge in demand for the retrofitting of the existing buildings across the GCC region,” he says (see sidebar).

Andrea Di Gregorio, Executive Director, Reem, Ras Al Khaimah Municipality, also believes the region is poised to see a strong pipeline of retrofit projects. “More focus is being put in refurbishing existing buildings, to bring them up-to-speed with the latest best practices in sustainability,” he says. “We see an increase in interest from building owners in retrofit activities, and we expect this interest to further increase throughout 2021 and in the coming years.”

Energy efficiency and sustainability 

Another major driver for retrofits is the move towards energy efficient and sustainable practices, which has long been heralded by experts in the sector. Jha points out that because of the detrimental impact of buildings on the environment, with occupied buildings and the construction sector accounting for 36% of the global energy consumption and nearly 40% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions according to International Energy Agency (IEA), the UAE has begun to actively transition into smart and sustainable cities, which has turned the focus on the energy efficiency of the buildings, specifically existing ones. 

In addition to its impact on overall sustainability efforts, much of the move can be attributed to growing awareness on return of investment in terms of reduced operational cost. As Jha points out, retrofitting primarily refers to the measures being taken to replace legacy energy and utility systems with new and energy-efficient technologies. “These technologies not only reduce energy consumption and decrease carbon emissions but also lower maintenance costs, improve safety, enhance productivity, boost property valuations and also prolong the useful life of the assets and the building as a whole,” he says. “In a nutshell, we can say that OPEX of the building reduces and the asset value increases. Hence, it is becoming important day by day to retrofit buildings to not only make them more sustainable for the future but also to derive economical value by reducing the operational cost and, in turn, optimise the rentals and make them more lucrative for the tenants.”

Weighing in, Di Gregorio says that sustainable buildings often result in lower life cycle cost of the building itself. “If sustainability features are carefully selected, operational savings – in terms of energy and water usage and equipment maintenance – typically exceed any incremental investments that those features require,” he says. “For this reason, in a perfect market, where developers are able to fairly monetise their investments in higher quality buildings, we would expect for tenants any rent premiums for more sustainable buildings to be exceeded by the value of operational savings.”

Jha adds that as energy prices continue to rise, the relative benefits of energy efficiency will become increasingly important, and this is leading to a huge surge in demand for equipment, such as Smart LED lights and motion sensors, air curtains and FAHUs, energy-efficient AHUs, FCUs or split units and VAV systems. This has also led to greater demand for water usage reduction through the use of low-flow fixtures, sensors, waterless urinals and low-flush WCs, and also for photovoltaic panels on rooftops to generate electricity from the solar power, among other solutions. 

A renewed focus on IAQ 

While the return on investment (ROI) from retrofitting for energy efficiency is becoming clear, stakeholders are hopeful that the new wave of retrofits would also accommodate enhancements of indoor air quality (IAQ), which has been typically overlooked over the past years. Di Gregorio says that he believes this would be the case. “There is increasing interest in IAQ, partly driven by COVID-19 concerns,” he says. “Some awareness and technical barriers are there; nonetheless we foresee development in this area in the future.”

Jha shares a similar opinion. He says: “Fear of pandemic is looming large in the minds of the people, and therefore, while carrying out the retrofitting of their buildings, owners are ensuring that retrofit projects also take into consideration IAQ of the buildings, where people are currently spending more than 90% of their time and also to reduce the chances of contamination through virus, bacteria, moulds and fungi.”

Di Gregorio says there is a lot of focus on safety and security from building owners, particularly in what concerns disinfection of common areas. “This sometimes adds to other measures, like filtration, turning into improved air quality,” he says. Jha adds that some of the measures that building owners are taking include Demand Control Ventilation through C02 sensors, fitting volume control dampers, ultraviolet lamps in AHUs, ultraviolet germicide irradiation and MERV 13/14 filters. He further adds that there has been an increase in the use of humidifiers and dehumidifiers to maintain humidity in the range of 40-60%, where the microbial and fungal growth is minimal.

Jha also says that the majority of the offices are allowing their staff to work from home and that people are spending more than 90% of their time indoors. “This further necessitates that apt measures are taken by the occupants to ensure proper lux levels, ergonomics and IAQ, as these will have a profound impact on their health and wellbeing and, in turn, impact their productivity,” he says. “Hence, there cannot be a better time than now to address the Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) issues, if any.” Jha says these are the factors driving a lot of investment being done by the property owners in the built-environment to retrofit their buildings to ensure proper IAQ against the traditional retrofit, where emphasis was mainly towards energy efficiency.

Making a case for retrofits 

Keeping in mind the tangible and intangible benefits of retrofitting, Di Gregorio believes there is more than enough evidence to drive building owners to invest in such initiatives. “If building owners are not thinking about retrofits, they definitely should!” he says. “Retrofit projects tend to have very favourable returns. We are observing that for comprehensive retrofits of commercial buildings in Ras Al Khaimah, the payback time is 3-5 years. And the contracting standards that are being adopted often provide forms of guarantees for the investor on those returns.”

Jha, agreeing, says that in spite of the change in the occupancy profile of buildings, property owners must continue to retrofit within the built-environment. “Retrofitting of existing buildings offers tremendous opportunities for improving asset performance in terms of utilities,” he says. “Retrofitting also offers a potential upside in the overall performance of the building through improved energy efficiency, increased staff productivity, reduced maintenance costs, and better thermal comfort.” Jha believes that such key drivers should serve as a motivation and incentive for building owners, who are on the fence about investing in retrofit projects.

A complete 180

In view of the shifting political landscape, how will the new administration affect the country’s commitment to climate change mitigation?

It’s going to be a complete 180 from the [Donald] Trump administration. In [Joe] Biden’s plan, he mentions “a historic investment” in upgrading four million commercial buildings to return almost a quarter of the savings from retrofits to cash-strapped state and local governments. Specifically, it says that he will “mobilize a trained and skilled American workforce to manufacture, install, service and maintain high-efficiency LED lighting, electric appliances, and advanced heating and cooling systems that run cleaner and less costly”. 

Given our focus on energy savings, I think that this will be great for business as well as for building owners. Some suggest that large rebates may be involved to directly incentivise businesses and make it affordable to pursue these upgrades. 

That being said, although the Trump administration was not at all focused on energy conservation, I found that individual building owners and managers were still pursuing these measures during the Trump administration. Most organisations in the US are interested in conserving energy and saving money. With government focus and incentives, it will just accelerate the demand.

In view of COVID-19, do you see a greater uptake of IAQ equipment throughout the country? 

Yes, for sure. However, these things come with a cost, and with COVID destroying the economy, there is going to have to be some kind of funding or incentives given to get these types of retrofits in place. I will give you an example. Two of our clients in the US requested ultraviolet lighting proposals to be retrofitted into their air handlers and FCUs. We put together the proposals and delivered them; however, neither has been approved yet due to the difficulties these buildings are facing financially due to delinquent tenant rent payments and occupancy.

Another interesting fact is that most of these IAQ retrofits are not intended to deliver energy savings. That is another hurdle to getting these projects approved. One last point – and I don’t think this is limited to the US – customers in the UAE have also asked for ultraviolet lighting to be installed, and it is still difficult to get the approval here, for the same reasons mentioned earlier.

Has there been a heavier-than-usual concentration on the air side of things from building owners, tenants and manufacturers?

The EPA has recommended that guidance provided by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) for managing IAQ during the current pandemic be followed. ASHRAE’s statement is as follows: “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.”

The two solutions we have seen implemented in the buildings we service in the USA are AHU filter upgrades and increasing the intake of outside air into the building. Both of these changes are very effective and relatively easy to implement as well as low cost.

How has the change in occupancy profile thrown everything into a state of chaos in terms of commercial and residential property requirements? Will this be a driving force towards more retrofit projects? 

In terms of energy conservation measures, this has thrown everything into a state of chaos. One, the commercial buildings are hardly occupied, which has led to energy bills dropping dramatically. However, with less occupancy comes less rent, thus less money to invest in retrofit projects. In addition, building owners, who are still looking for energy savings, are hesitant to move forward, because they are not sure if and when tenants will be returning to the buildings, so to be honest, unless it’s a well-funded customer, this could actually slow the conservation efforts.

Residential buildings face the same issue. People are leaving the dense, populated cities, preferring the suburbs right now, leaving residential multi-family buildings unoccupied and no rents being paid. Until we get herd immunity with the vaccine, and people are comfortable returning to the cities to work and live, this will continue to be challenging.

How have these trends potentially influenced building owners? 

As I stated earlier, most building owners are hesitant even if they want to move forward on new projects, given the current situation. However, some forward thinkers, with ability and the confidence that things will return to normal, are taking this time to invest in conservation efforts, so that when the buildings are occupied, they can take advantage of the maximum savings.

Have there been efforts to retrofit among specialised facilities such as healthcare? 

At the moment, it is difficult to even get a meeting with a healthcare facility in the US. They are overwhelmed and have overcapacity with COVID patients and are focused on saving lives before anything else. Their priority right now is the conservation of life.

Has the pandemic finally trained the spotlight on the importance of having a balance between energy efficiency and IAQ? 

I think that yes, people will be investing in IAQ, or at least investigating their options, especially healthcare facilities and the like. However, in my experience, to be honest, it’s a tough sale, unless there’s a Return on Investment (ROI) in the project. Having said that, UV lighting does have some energy-saving benefits, so maybe a combination of IAQ and energy savings should be highlighted to the building owners in the presentation of these retrofit solutions.

Retrofitting in Kuwait, Oman and the UAE

Ashok Jha

COVID-19 has had a significant adverse impact on organisations, people’s health, their livelihoods and the economy at large in the GCC region countries, says Ashok Jha, Head, FM & Retrofit Projects, Universal Voltas LLC. However, Jha is quick to point out that while the duration and severity of COVID-19’s impact on economies and sectors will undoubtedly vary, companies and governments in the GCC region have done well to set in motion a “look ahead, anticipate, innovate and adjust” roadmap, which has led the construction sector to focus on energy optimisation and retrofitting in existing buildings, which is a key to sustainable construction.

 

Oman 

Citing figures from Global Data, a leading data and analytics company, Jha says that Oman’s construction industry contracted sharply in 2020, plummeting by nearly around -10.3%. “The industry is struggling with challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak, low oil prices, and the impact of sovereign credit rating downgrades,” he says. Further compounding the downside risks to the outlook for the industry, the Omani Government has had to rationalise spending.”

Jha adds that given the limited prospects for the government to boost investment in infrastructure and other investment projects, a recovery in the construction sector is expected to be very slow. “Global Data currently expects the construction industry to fall further in 2021, with output contracting by -5.8%,” he says. “The fiscal plan by the Oman Government is intended to reduce public debt, increase the state’s reserves, and diversify revenue away from the oil sector.”

Owing to these factors, Jha believes that new construction spend will be very minimal, and more impetus will be on the retrofitting, deep retrofitting, fit-outs and energy performance optimisation in the built-environment in Oman.

Kuwait

Kuwait has faced similar challenges, Jha says, adding that the construction market shrunk in the year 2020 at about -9.5% approximately, as per Global Data. “The construction industry is struggling with the challenges presented by the outbreak of COVID-19, low oil prices and the impact of sovereign credit rating downgrades,” he says. “Because of this, focus is more towards existing buildings in Kuwait.”

Jha adds that within the built-environment in Kuwait, residential buildings constitute around 81%, commercial buildings are 11%, whereas government buildings constitute four per cent; the remaining four per cent includes commercial, industrial, agricultural and services. “Also, Kuwait has one of the highest per capita electricity consumption and carbon footprint globally, which further necessitates the retrofitting of the buildings to make them more sustainable,” he says. “All the above factors, along with the economic strain, is forcing Kuwait to focus on energy conservation, deep retrofitting, retrofitting and fit-outs in the built-environment with a very minimal spending on new construction.”

UAE

Sharing observations on the UAE market, in particular, Jha says that the COVID-19 outbreak, coupled with low oil prices, has led the construction output in the UAE to contract by nearly 4.8% in 2020, but that a rebound is expected in 2021, as per Global Data. “New project opportunities are expected to be minimal in the coming quarters, as the government is consolidating its widening fiscal debt and COVID-19-related force majeure,” he said. “Over the medium- to longer-term, government investment will remain focused on upgrading physical infrastructure and reforming the financing and regulatory environment.”

Jha adds that the UAE has set high targets for building retrofit, which are reflected in the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 and the Dubai Integrated Energy Strategy. “The latter targets an overall 30% reduction in energy and water use by 2030,” he says. “To support this, Etihad ESCO aims to retrofit 30,000 buildings in the next 10 years and generate 1.68TWh energy savings and around 5.64 BIG of water savings by year 2030.”

Islington and Clapham

As we bid goodbye to 2020 and gingerly step into 2021, the feeling is not of relief, because the virus is still on the prowl. It must be added, though, that we have reached an inflexion point with the early promise being shown by some of the vaccines that have been deployed.

Now, amidst the carnage of 2020, we have been witness to heartwarming instances of human endeavour – of the medical fraternity putting their lives at risk to save others, of boffins hard at work harnessing the power of science and engineering to provide relief to not only healthcare workers but also numerous other sectors.

Away from the COVID scene, there are other instances that have stood out. Like the Bunhill Heat and Power Network project, in central London, which uses waste heat from the London Underground network to supply heat and hot water to nearly 1,500 homes and other facilities in the Borough of Islington, in a bid to lower indirect carbon emissions and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. Human ingenuity repurposed the former City Road London Underground station into an underground air extraction system. It draws warm air from the tunnels, still in use by the London Underground’s Northern Line.

Not only will the project reportedly lower indirect emissions but also cut heating costs by 10%, benefitting the residents connected to the network – a case of district energy providing succour to tenants by passing on the savings.

What is even more heartwarming, according to the company that supplied the technology to the project (see story on page XX) is that it can be replicated in underground networks the world over.

As if by coincidence, the subterranean labyrinthine depths of London constitute the theatre for yet another instance of human ingenuity and resourcefulness. Growing Underground is a farming enterprise that is using long-forgotten World War 2 tunnels used as shelter during air raids conducted by the Luftwaffe. About 100 feet beneath London’s Clapham, growers working for the enterprise are busy harvesting micro-greens using hydroponic technology, which uses 70% less water, when compared to traditional farming practices. The produce is pesticide-free and provides an opportunity to Londoners to eat fresh and without the guilt from knowledge that the greens on their plate are the result of burning copious volumes of climate-threatening fossil fuels in transporting them to their doorstep. The project is redefining food supply chains for the better and lowering food wastage by increasing shelf life.

Such examples as the Islington district energy scheme and Growing Underground serve as inspiration for us to consider abandoning some of the hackneyed approaches that are not taking us far in our quest for a better planet. They are about courage and speak of a certain frontier spirit that we ought to consider embracing.

AHRI applauds inclusion of HFC reduction language in Omnibus Bill

ARLINGTON, Virginia, 27 December 2020: The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) on December 22 expressed its gratitude to House and Senate negotiators who included language in the just-passed Omnibus bill to bring about a national phasedown of HFC refrigerants. Particular appreciation also is due to Senators John Kennedy (R-La.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) as well as to Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Pete Olson (R-Tex.), and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) for their tireless efforts to see this bipartisan initiative through to completion, AHRI said.

The language included in the bill would bring about a national phase down of HFCs and allow for a market- and consumer-friendly transition to new and better performing refrigerants and related products and equipment, AHRI said.

“We are gratified that negotiators included this bipartisan, jobs-promoting language in the Omnibus bill, and we are grateful to the Senate and House champions who worked so hard to see it accomplished, and to the House and Senate for passing the bill,” said Stephen Yurek, AHRI President & CEO. “Our industry has been working toward this goal for more than 10 years, and it is very exciting to see our vision of an HFC phasedown reach the home stretch. We are hopeful that President Trump will quickly sign the bill, so we can pivot toward implementation.”

Quoting a 2018 study by Interindustry Forecasting at the University of Maryland (INFORUM), AHRI said an HFC phasedown will create 33,000 new manufacturing jobs, increase direct manufacturing output by USD 12.5 billion, and increase the US share of the global HVACR export market by 25%.

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