Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Crisis making world even more dependent on cooling

Society has become even more dependent on cooling technologies during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA).

Increasing numbers of people working from home and using smart technologies has driven up the demand for data centre cooling; and their crucial role in supporting healthcare facilities has thrust refrigeration and air conditioning into the limelight, the Association explained.

This Friday’s World Refrigeration Day (WRD) is, therefore, a timely opportunity to improve the general public’s understanding of the cooling industry and explain its role in supporting society.

The theme of this year’s event, which takes place on June 26th every year (the birthday of refrigeration pioneer Lord Kelvin) is ‘Cold Chain 4 Life.’ This highlights the series of actions and technologies needed to ensure vital products, including medicines and food, are preserved from production through to consumption.

WRD, which is backed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), will also publicise the role of cold chains in reducing food waste that could feed up to 950 million more people worldwide every year.

The UK’s primary F Gas register REFCOM, which is managed by BESA, is also supporting the global event.


“This is all about awareness,” said Head of REFCOM Graeme Fox. “Our sector has so many fingers in so many pies that people just don’t know about…and offers fantastic career opportunities to anyone looking to make a difference.”

Innovative cooling technologies continue to transform the world including solar-powered refrigeration that means vaccines and food can be preserved in remote communities that have no access to electricity, he explained.

Mr Fox told a BESA webinar that there was strong engineering evidence that air conditioning systems were playing a part in reducing the risk of transmission of the Covid-19 virus.

“Cooling coils will remove moisture particles from the air as it passes over them,” he told the webinar. “As the virus is known to be transmitted inside water droplets, this shows that air conditioning is very much part of the solution.”

Last year, there were more than 800 WRD events held in 153 countries with many placing particular emphasis on skills and encouraging young people to consider careers in an industry that already employs more than 50,000 people in the UK.

WRD founder Steve Gill told the BESA webinar that it was also important for people to understand how the industry worked so they could “engage with us in an informed way”.

“Everyone is at the end of a cold chain…they are just not always aware of it.” He explained that the lack of a reliable cold chain in many parts of the world meant many potential lifesaving vaccines became unusable.

Julie Murray, chair of the Institute of Refrigeration Scotland added that “we all need cold chains and we all use them, but they are taken for granted”.

However, with demand for cooling predicted to treble between now and 2050, it could be responsible for a surge in carbon emissions at a time when countries have committed to drastically reducing them. As a result, the industry needs to be even more innovative, according to Mr Gill.

“Demand for refrigeration is growing exponentially as the world warms up, but we must grow responsibly,” he said. “We cannot continue as we are…we need to be more sustainable.

“However, there is no silver bullet. In fact, the silver bullet is that there is no silver bullet,” Mr Gill told the BESA webinar. “We need different applications for different parts of the world using technological solutions that are appropriate for the local conditions.”

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