Use of natural refrigerants such as hydrocarbons could be prompted by the first ever-proposed federal energy standards for beverage vending machines. hydrocarbons21.com attended the public meeting held in Washington D.C on the proposed US Department of Energy new requirements.
With one refrigerated beverage vending machine per 100 US citizens, vending machines represent a significant opportunity to curtail direct and indirect GHG emissions. The proposed standards could cut energy consumption by 35 to 42% and will apply to all vending machines produced within three years following formal adoption of the ruling which is expected 8 August 2009.
Big cuts but no far-reaching standards
Given that there are some 3 million beverage vending machines in the US, big emissions cuts can be achieved without jeopardising the overall industry with too challenging technological changes. Indeed, the DoE has specified that the requested standards were drafted on the basis of readily proven technologies.
The proposed draft is a result of some two years of discussions, meetings and should result in the adoption of the ruling this summer. Although there is hardly any mention of natural refrigerants, as the analysis is based on expected results from HFC use, some clear signals as regards the future consideration of natural refrigerant alternatives were given at the meeting.
Energy and emissions savings
In the amended version of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), the Department of Energy specifies that the energy conservation standards have been designed to ‘‘achieve the maximum improvement in energy efficiency which the Secretary determines is technologically feasible and economically justified.’’
As such, the DoE estimates that the prescribed standards could lead to 5.14Mt CO2 being saved between 2012 to 2042. The energy savings from the proposed standards, in turn, will save the need for approximately 46 megawatts (MW) of electric generating capacity by 2042. All beverage vending machines manufactured within three years after the publication of the new ruling will have to comply with these new standards.
New requirements could save industry not just climate
At the hearing, beverage multinationals such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo informed that such standards had become a necessity for the industry to survive. Not only will this substantially cut CO2 emissions from the given industry, it will also cut energy consumption and make the business more profitable.
Questions were raised about the focus of the DoE being only on indirect emissions (energy efficiency) mentioning the obvious advantages of hydrocarbons and R744 with regard to GWP. Given that these standards will be revised again over the coming years one could expect focus to shift also to direct emissions of refrigerants. Both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola recognised that they were working with HCs and R744, seeing these technologies as promising solutions for the future. Recently, PepsiCo announced it would be testing some 5,000 vending machines using isobutane and propane refrigerants. Coca-Cola will also be testing some 1,800 CO2 coolers and vending machines throughout the U.S. and Canada this year.
Comments were also made about providing incentives for utilities to switch to natural refrigerant based vending machines, or to give tax credits for companies, in order to stimulate the market as well as reduce overall emissions even further.
The new standards and comment period
The DoE has divided vending machines into two classes: A&B. The new standards require vending machines to achieve a Maximum Daily Energy Consumption (MDEC) of:
- A 0.055 × V + 2.56†
- B 0.073 × V + 3.16††
V being the refrigerated volume, †: Trial Standard Level (TSL) 6 and ††: TSL 3.
Class A comprises machines that cool product throughout the entire refrigerated volume. These machines generally use ‘‘shelf-style’’ vending mechanisms and a transparent (glass or polymer) front where the product is visible to the consumer.
In Class B beverage vending machines, cold, refrigerated air is directed at a fraction of the refrigerated volume. This method is used to assure that the next- to-be-vended product will be the coolest product in the machine. These machines usually have an opaque front and use a ‘‘stack-style’’ vending mechanism.
DoE will accept comments, data, and information regarding the notice before 28 July 2009.