The Green Cooling Initiative (GCI) – a global initiative of the German government’s GIZ Proklima program – organized a study tour to China to promote the adoption of energy-efficient propane (R290)-based air-conditioning through international exchange and knowledge sharing.
“The market uptake of R290 AC technology remains limited up to date, though it has been available for over 10 years,” explained the GCI in a statement on its website. “GIZ Proklima promotes the use of R290 [so] we wish to see more availability and [adoption] of this super environmental-friendly technology that contributes to climate action.”
Government and private sector representatives from Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam participated in the five-day study tour, which took place September 4–8.
The trip was organized in partnership with GIZ Proklima’s Cool Contributions Fighting Climate Change (C4) II, the China Household Electrical Appliances Association (CHEAA) and the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) in the context of the International Climate Initiative (IKI).
The study tour began in Guangzhou Province, where delegates visited R290 AC manufacturers Midea and TCL and R290 compressor manufacturer GMCC. The tour concluded in Beijing, where a full-day workshop was held at the Foreign Environmental Cooperation Center (FECO) of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. The workshop was co-organized by the CHEAA and GIZ.
The need for climate-friendly AC
According to the GCI, split ACs are currently the most widely used appliance for space cooling globally, and demand is likely to grow significantly as temperatures, urbanization rates and incomes rise.
As demand for air-conditioning increases, so too will direct (refrigerants) and indirect (energy) greenhouse gas emissions. Due to its ultra-low GWP, R290 offers a climate-friendly alternative to commonly-used HFCs that are thousands of times more harmful to the climate than CO2.
R290 AC units are also highly energy efficient thanks to their compressors, which are 5% more efficient than R32 compressors.
Midea, a Chinese manufacturer of R290 ACs and heat pumps, believes that propane “will be the future” and is encouraged by policy and market trends in China and the EU. To meet growing demand, the company plans to at least double its production capacity of R290 split ACs over the coming years and will be introducing 5 and 7kW (1.4 and 2TR) units in 2024.
Compressor manufacturer GMCC echoed Midea’s views that global markets are shifting to R290 – particularly in the EU with its F-gas Regulation and commitments on heat pumps – and considers the development of R290 compressors as a major investment in the future.
The company added that with the suitable oil and appropriate precautions, R290 can be used safely.
“The question is not if but when economy of scale will be reached for R290,” said Paul Recknagel, Project Director at GIZ China. “It is now time to leave the pilot phase and to scale up production and market acceptance worldwide.”
“The question is not if but when economy of scale will be reached for R290. It is now time to leave the pilot phase and to scale up production and market acceptance worldwide.”Paul Recknagel, GIZ China.
Promoting international cooperation
The workshop in Beijing was focused on promoting exchange and cooperation between China and other Article 5 countries on R290 room air-conditioning, with a range of policymakers and industry representatives participating, explained the GCI.
“Since 2008 [and] through continuous technical evaluation and review, the Chinese room AC industry has chosen R290 as refrigerant and gained extensive experience in the actual promotion and application of R290 and has made pioneering progress in the market,” said Yang Lirong, Director of the FECO. “To promote international exchange, China is willing to cooperate, especially with Article 5 countries, to jointly respond to the global issue of climate change and to promote sustainable development.”
The morning session of the workshop focused on energy efficiency and safety standards and testing requirements, as well as good practices in installation and maintenance, with presentations from the China Institute of Standardization, CHEAA and CVC Testing Technology.
In the afternoon session, representatives from Haier and Hisense presented their R290 room AC product developments and shared their R290 roadmaps for various markets, while Highly and Qing’an presented developments on R290 compressors. Delegates from the Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh and Vietnam also presented international trends for R290 AC and opportunities for international cooperation.
“Proklima is ready to cooperate with manufacturers and policy makers in setting up supply chains for R290 AC including in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” said Anja Werntges, Junior Advisor at GIZ Proklima.
In an effort to promote sustainable cooling globally, particularly in the Global South, the GCI is seeking new manufacturer members for its Green Cooling Network, an alliance of key players in the RAC sector.
“Proklima is ready to cooperate with manufacturers and policy makers in setting up supply chains for R290 AC including in Asia, Africa and Latin America.”Anja Werntges, GIZ Proklima.