Cooling demand surging and industry reforms required says WRD founder

Society does not realise anymore how reliant technology and basic services are on cooling and refrigeration. Image credit: Cold Store Construction UK

Industry experts argue that there is no single ‘silver bullet’ approach to meet demand for cleaner, greener cost-effective cooling in reflection of the vast role of refrigeration in modern life.

Growth of the global cooling sector will be vital to protect people and economies around the world, but such an expansion must be met responsibly, according to Steven Gill, founder of World Refrigeration Day.

Gill, speaking at a webinar ahead of World Refrigeration Day, said that exponential growth for cooling technologies worldwide reflected the challenges posed to everyone from global warming. “Increases in average global temperatures were increasingly impacting people in both developing and developed countries”, says Gill. He added, “We do have to grow this responsibly. We just cannot carry on doing more of the same. That is just not possible both from an energy side and the climate impacts. So yes, the demand for cooling is growing. The demand for cooling as we know it, as we’re doing it right now, no, we cannot continue like this.”

Gill was joined during the webinar by Julie Murray, Chair of the Institute of Refrigeration Scotland. Murray said that the coinciding International Women in Engineering Day, that remained a stigma that specialist engineering sectors such as refrigeration were a ‘man’s job’, despite the examples of experts operating across a number of sectors.

The global campaign day is therefore part of ongoing work to expand and build public awareness of the employment opportunities for women in the fields of engineering and other vital areas of businesses and planning.

Murray said, “The refrigeration and cooling sector still continues to be taken for granted, despite the huge number of applications it will continue to have in safeguarding many vital aspects of modern life from food supply, to technology, infrastructure and healthcare.”

Graeme Fox, head of certification body Refcom, said that focuses such as World Refrigeration Day on building public awareness of the various aspects of cooling were hugely important for the future of the sector.

Fox added, “We as a sector have fingers in so many pies that people just aren’t aware of.  The fact is so much of modern life is just not possible without some form of refrigeration.” Fox cited the growing reliance on webinars was an example of how cooling supported huge swathes of technological innovation, such as in ensuring data centres continue to function.

No silver bullets

The webinar was also used to ask the panel of experts what the future of cooling might look like amidst an industry acceptance of the need to reduce its overall environmental impacts and specifically asking for examples of what the major technological breakthrough to come from industry might be to address the sector’s operational and sustainable ambitions.

The panel accepted that the best answer to such a difficult question was that there would not be no single ‘silver bullet’ solution to address the challenges facing the sector and industries dependent on cost effective and energy efficient cooling.

Fox said, “I think one of the problems we have had as a sector for a long-time is that we, and I say we but this is long before my time, continually have had lots of breakthrough inventions that have sadly turned out to be not so great for the environment. This had made us a bit hesitant, if you like, to bring forward some of the changes. “

An obvious and significant recent change that he said was now going ahead was the plethora of new refrigerants being developed to try and address environmental concerns around cooling technologies.

Fox added, “One of these issues that this development has obviously brought is the need for professionalism. We are obviously now dealing with flammable refrigerants and very high-pressure gas and things that maybe industry hasn’t been used to. If there would be any ‘silver bullet’ invention to come in the next ten years, it would probably be a lovely, environmentally friendly refrigerant that doesn’t have high pressure, isn’t toxic and isn’t flammable. Whether that is possible within the laws of physics is another question.”

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