What are the updates within the industry concerning the refrigeration sector in India? How does the situation compare to what’s happening globally?
In India, the refrigeration sector is in expansion, following the growing development of the food retail sector and changes in society, such as the increase in the number of working women, which reduces the time for daily grocery shopping and increases the need for keeping food fresh for longer. In other regions of the world this changes in economy and society have reached its peak and the growth is only incremental at this point.
Regarding technology updates and market demands, the Indian market evolves in the same direction of what is happening globally: energy efficiency, natural refrigerants, sustainability, competitiveness, low noise and quality in food preservation, with the addition of adaptability to voltage fluctuations. As Embraco is always attentive to market demands, we have been focused in developing solutions to address these demands, with high investments in research and development.
What are the various technologies in place for the sake of next generation refrigeration and cooling solutions? In what direction is market demand headed?
The main technologies in place for the sake of next generation refrigeration and cooling solutions are changes in the compressor’s design in order to provide more energy efficiency, size reduction with embedded technology, the use of natural refrigerants and improvements in terms of acoustic perception. Another important technology in place is the variable speed compressors: known as inverter technology, which is ideal for regions with constant voltage fluctuations due to its wide voltage working range.
Variable speed compressors provide better temperature control, lower noise and energy efficiency. They can alone reduce energy consumption to the extent of 30% to 40% on average, in comparison with conventional fixed speed compressors (on-off), depending on the application. That is because variable speed compressors come with an embedded set of electronics that allow the compressor to control its working speed, decreasing it when the ideal temperature has been achieved and also increasing it when there is need for more cold, whereas fixed speed compressors turn off when the ideal temperature is reached, and turn on again when there is need for more cold – which requires a big amount of energy. The electronics in variable speed compressors, allow it to be connected to mobile devices and have its performance controlled and managed remotely.
As for the future, we see that natural refrigerants are gaining more and more preference especially for residential and light commercial applications, because of their contribution to mitigate global warming and to reduce operating costs. Natural refrigerants have GWP very close to zero and can add around 10% to 15% benefit in energy efficiency.
India is also a signatory to the Paris Agreement; how do we stand as a country in meeting regulations to achieve a low-carbon footprint?
There are a lot of initiatives, plans, monitoring and regulations that can be put in place by a country to achieve a low-carbon footprint. The Paris agreement has a holistic agenda towards the aim of decreasing global warming, involving CO2 emissions, use of renewable energies and increase in energy efficiency. Regarding the HVAC&R sector, the Indian government has been fostering the development of sustainable solutions in this industry, and this is an important step towards reducing global warming, migrating from high global warming potential HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) to low GWP options, such as natural refrigerants.
Considering the on-set of COVID-19, it is surely a game-changer. How would businesses have to re-write the script through which they function?
Whereas, Covid-19 has temporarily slowed down the industry activity in general, it has accelerated very important trends, such as the digital transformation and the plans and initiatives for a more sustainable future. Businesses, from now on, must accelerate their plans of digitization, 4.0 industry, environmental impact reduction plans, sustainable solutions and so on, in order to keep up with this new moment in human history.
From the industry perspective, what are the pressing questions that need to be addressed concerning HVAC applications, meeting client and market demand?
The refrigeration market in general and our customers in particular, which are residential and commercial refrigeration equipment OEMs as well as wholesalers and distributors, are concerned with future proof solutions, which means solutions that are sustainable and comply with future regulations, have the lowest possible global warming potential, the best energy efficiency available, and that also take comfort and space use in consideration, being small and with low noise levels.
We have a big R&D team and structure to study and develop solutions with these characteristics, in both segments residential and commercial. Some examples of Embraco solutions that synthesize this approach are the FMF, the most energy efficient compressor in the market, and the Bioma, an outdoor condensing unit that has three access doors for easy maintenance and is 50% more silent than its market counterparts.
Tell us about technological advancement and the call for energy efficient solutions, also how big is this demand?
The demand for energy efficient solutions is one of the biggest market demands in the present global scenario. It is a demand that comes not only from our customers, but also from the end consumer and large food and beverage brands, and is fostered by local countries’ regulations as well.
According to the International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR), refrigeration and air conditioning together respond for 17% of the electricity consumption in the world. After reliability, the strongest wave of evolution in compressors has been energy efficiency. It is measured by the Coefficient of Performance (CoP), which is the cooling effect divided by the energy you consume to create this cooling effect.
The evolution in this aspect, in our Embraco portfolio has been big both for commercial and residential applications. In commercial refrigeration, for example, an Embraco NE compressor had a CoP of 1.2 twenty years ago. Today, you can have an Embraco EMC series, much smaller, doing the same job, with a CoP of 1.9, which means 60% more energy efficiency. In domestic refrigeration, the EM, launched in 1982, evolved from an CoP of 1.19 when launched to 1.96 in 2015.
What are the updates concerning policy and regulation around refrigeration? What role can the government play for the future?
The main regulations around refrigeration are focused on themes like: refrigerants and the phase-out of HFCs, energy efficiency standards, and safety standards. These are themes regulated by the government and its agencies, so the state plays a major role in defining the future in this regard.
But, some international cooperation between countries proposing long term regulations can significantly change the refrigeration sector status, such as the Kigali Amendment, as the next step after the Paris agreement, proposing to gradually reduce the consumption and production of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to eliminate its use. With this, we expect that the industry shall massively transition to more environmentally friendly and available alternatives such as hydrocarbons.
When it comes about Indian legislation, the government has been raising the efficiency standards for home appliances, including refrigerators. The fast growing penetration rate of refrigerators, the interest in greener options and the industry capability to deliver more efficient solutions are a good match and seems to bring a bright future not only for the industry, but for the end users as well. As an example, in order to achieve the new India BEE (Bureau of Energy Efficiency) maximum rating, valid from January 2020 on, it is required the usage of inverter technology (variable speed compressors) combined with natural refrigerants.
Project related information that you’d like to share with us?
Just to give an idea of the energy efficiency that can come from the combination of variable speed and natural refrigerants in compressors, we would like to share the results of a co-developed project with a visicooler manufacturer, a customer that is present in 115 countries. The co-development project involved two product lines: a horizontal freezer, for frozen products, and a vertical showcase, for beer and energetic beverages conservation. The solutions used the Embraco FMF compressor, which brings the features of inverter and bivolt technologies combined with natural refrigerant R290, making it not only sustainable but the most efficient commercial compressor in the market. The result was a reduction of 55% of energy consumption in the applications, when compared with conventional similar systems.
In addition, the Embraco brand bivolt technology allows the compressor to work in a broad range of voltages, assuring that the appliance will keep working even with power peaks and unstable energy lines.