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REAL Alternatives 4 LIFE influences skills for low GWP refrigerants across Europe

Three years ago the European Commission announced that it would be co-funding a project to develop EU wide training on low GPW alternatives refrigerants as part of its LIFE climate action programme. REAL Alternatives 4 LIFE was the project and it would incorporate the principles of blended learning programme (booklets, elearning and practical teaching).

In addition, it would run a programme of train the trainer events and study days across Europe.  All of this supported by a high profile awareness campaign to encourage recognition of this training amongst employers, wholesalers, manufacturers, end users and policy makers – increasing confidence in the application of these new refrigerants. What’s more , it would offer Certification for technicians who had completed REAL Alternatives standard assessments providing a consistent and high standard for training across Europe.  All of this in multiple languages.

So what did the project achieve? Three years on and a total of over 1600 working days between the eight organisations, has resulted in :

  • 9 free learning modules available on line – with 5000 individual learners registered
  • 7 training events and 4 study day events for teachers resulting in 200 certified trainers
  • 23 national organisations now able to accredit trainers and their courses has so far resulted in 500 certificates being issued to technicians
  • Our communications have reached several hundred thousand people globally through co-ordinate awareness campaign of talks delivered on line and at meetings, international exhibitions and conferences, regular web articles, press releases, social media and newsletters
  • Each of the national organisations has had regular meetings with their national and international policy makers including various presentations at COP global summit meetings, the International Congress of Refrigeration and ASHRAE meetings.

As the demand for cooling services continues to grow across the globe, the need to switch to lower GWP refrigerants for environmental reasons is clear.  However, in addition the higher GWP F Gases are already becoming less readily available due to international phase down sin supply. As a result the market has to adapt rapidly to the use of low GWP refrigerants.  But this is not always straightforward: carbon dioxide operates higher pressures, hydrocarbons, R32 and HFOs have various degrees of flammability or ammonia is toxic.  A massive retraining exercise is needed for installers and service technicians. REAL Alternatives took on the challenge of developing training materials that will teach technicians how to use alternative refrigerants in a safe, efficient, and reliable manner.

These training resources have been translated and are now available in 17 languages to make them accessible throughout most of the EU and, in the future, globally. REAL Alternatives is also operating a network of licenced training providers and National Leads worldwide to monitor training take up and certification standards.

Earlier this year the project carried out a survey of the market to see how attitudes to the use of low GWP refrigerants have changed over the past 3 years.  The finding support the need for the kinds of free accessible resources that the project developed and a growing demand for these refrigerants in the future.   We found that the transition to low GWP refrigerant technologies is happening rapidly.  The main driver for this change is of course legislative action by policy makers but there is an increasing awareness that climate friendly alternatives are available and businesses are under more social pressure to address climate change impact of their activity. 

Those in the RACHP are expecting a continued growth in demand for low GWP alternatives at least for the next 3-5 years, and that these types of refrigerants will become mainstream in the future.  Employers appear to be more aware of the need to have good quality, practical training in this area in order to address their safety, reliability and efficiency concerns.  Up until February 2020 when physical training ceased in most of Europe, we were seeing a trend of growth in the capacity of trainers to deliver practical courses and for technician to achieve certification since the REAL Alternatives practical training became available in June 2019. As the number of Licenced Training Providers offering practical training across our 23 countries of National Lead countries increases, so the number of Certified Technicians who have attended such training is likely to increase rapidly in the coming years.  

The team behind REAL Alternatives expect the global impact of this training material to extend rapidly both within and beyond Europe in the next few years, and are currently in negotiation with a wide range of both developing and developed countries to adapt the material for their use, and to arrange train the trainer sessions for their technical teachers.  This project has confirmed that the EU and UK are leading the way in tacking climate change for the RACHP sector.

Find out more about the project outputs, achievements and how you can get access the free e-learning at www.realalternatives4life.eu

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