In Ghana, 17,436MWh of energy and 14,445 metric tons of CO2 emissions have been saved thanks to the ECOFRIDGES GO program, which incentivizes customers to swap out end-of-life fridges for R600a models that cut electricity costs.

The ECOWAS Refrigerators and Air Conditioners Initiative (ECOFRIDGES) is a joint project by the Governments of Ghana and Senegal, the United Nations Environment Programme’s United for Efficiency (UNEP U4E) initiative and the Basel Agency for Sustainable Energy (BASE).

In collaboration with regional and local partners, ECOFRIDGES aims to accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient and climate-friendly domestic refrigerators and room air conditioners, saving consumers money on their electricity bills, relieving demand on the power sector and mitigating impacts on the environment, according to the project website.

A cornerstone of ECOFRIDGES activities in Ghana is a Green On-Wage (GO) financial mechanism to help make these cooling products more affordable. Through ECOFRIDGES GO, local financial institutions aim by 2023 to unlock at least US$11 million (€11 million) in financing in Ghana to support the purchase of over 15,000 more sustainable cooling appliances and encourage the replacement of old existing equipment, according to the project.

The project includes the proper collection and disposal of used appliances, product testing, policy considerations, capacity building and promotion and awareness campaigns. It sets strict energy performance requirements and limits on the refrigerants of participating products to keep a lid on greenhouse gas emissions. For refrigerators, only R600a models are available for customers, while R32 air conditioners are used to replace aging R22 models.

“Global warming is catching up with us, and so the refrigerant component is also a key criterion in this project,” said Hubert Zan, Assistant Manager at the Energy Efficiency Inspection and Enforcement Commission of Ghana.

Innovative finance mechanism

ECOFRIDGES GO financing is used to lower financial barriers hampering the purchase of higher-performing products by the Ghanaian population. The mechanism relies on the availability of concessional green credit facilities enabling purchase in installments and repayments through monthly salary deductions. This supports the replacement of used but operational equipment with newer, certified solutions, increasing the affordability of those usually more expensive appliances.

ECOFRIDGES GO is designed to “target salaried workers, for which the upfront cost of these appliances are paid for by the participating banks and then offer a period of 12 months to pay at zero percent interest,” explained Zan.

A take-back scheme is in place for customers to return their end-of-life cooling appliances in exchange for a direct financial incentive, ensuring proper recycling and treatment of discarded devices. This means that the refrigerant is disposed of in a safe way, rather than ending up in a landfill and being vented into the atmosphere.

ECOFRIDGES GO is made possible by funding from the Clean Cooling Collaborative (formerly the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program) and in-kind contributions from Ghana’s Energy Commission and Environmental Protection Agency and project partners. As of May 2022, US$1 million (€1 million) of finance has been obtained.

Customers reap the benefits

A video has been released documenting the implementation of the ECOFRIDGES GO program in Ghana. Recounting the journey of the program so far, it features several interviews with partner vendors and government officials. It also includes multiple testimonials from happy customers, citing significant reductions in their electricity bills since joining the program.

Alberta Taylor, an ECOFRIDGES customer, has shaved 20% off her electricity bill since changing to a new R600a fridge. Another customer, Martin Yankey, shared how there is a clear difference in how long his prepaid electricity lasts – several weeks longer – since upgrading to an ECOFRIDGES model.

“Since I bought this fridge there has been a significant drop in my electricity bills,” said customer Amoani Owusu-Ntow. “I obviously can see that although this fridge is bigger than the old one, it consumes far less energy.”

“Global warming is catching up with us, and so the refrigerant component is also a key criterion in this project.”

Hubert Zan, Energy Efficiency Inspection & Enforcement Commission of Ghana.

Efforts in rest of Africa

According to a statement from BASE, the program could be extended by adding new climate-friendly solutions, engaging more technology providers and partner banks and replicating it in other countries. Similar efforts are underway already in Senegal (on-bill financing) and Rwanda (on-wage financing). In Nigeria, R600a fridges are also becoming more popular thanks to Koolboks.

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