U-3ARC, guest of 123rd Annual Dinner of IOR at London

Through the effective presence of Madi Sakandé, President, U-3ARC was represented at the Annual Gala Dinner, organized by IOR (Institute of Refrigeration) in London, Thursday February 22, 2024. The state of the planet and requirements of the RAC sector were at the heart of the discussions just as the challenge of meeting growing demand with a quality offer was at the center.

Africa is a developing continent, which is at a crossroads. It relies heavily on the RAC sector. This cross-cutting sector could be a better launching pad for unprecedented socio-economic progress. Madi Sakandé, U-3ARC President, who thanked Graeme Fox, IOR President (Institute of Refrigeration), for the invitation among the guests at the 123rd Annual Dinner of OIR at London, shared and agreed with his speech.

U-3ARC, guest of 123rd Annual Dinner of IOR at London

Just before he invites guests to the toastmaster, Graeme Fox insisted on warming planet and ever-increasing demands on the cooling sector as the data centres and smart technology grows that will present an enormous challenge in meeting that demand.

He added a poignant speech that we reproduce in full : « On the theme of the warming planet the final point I’d like to make this evening relates back to the work that Madi Sakande and I have been doing with the United Nations Environment Programme - namely the creation and delivery of the Refrigerant Driving Licence or the RDL as it’s known - which is an entry level training and certification programme for technicians in developing nations funded by the UN and developed by international experts. Why did we put 10 years of effort into this? Why is it important you may ask? »

How quickly other parts of the world could get upskilled

« Put simply, the developing world has historically often used old, decommissioned equipment from places like the UK and Europe. Affordability of new equipment just wasn’t an option – and yet these nations are often those most in need of cooling – for medicines and food preservation, and so while we in the developed nations have been transitioning towards ultra-low GWP substances for several years now, most of developing world have still been using HCFCs and even some CFCs still. Conversations I was having with global manufacturing and other trade bodies was all pointing towards shooting for the lowest possible GWP as quickly as possible, and that caused me concerns over how quickly other parts of the world could get upskilled when I’ve witnessed first-hand how difficult that has been for much of Europe. And ironically I’m making this comment just 2 days after the new EU F-Gas regulations have been published which do not cover adequately the concerns which industry raised about safe handling of highly flammable refrigerants. This is where it gets tricky and why I’ve put so much effort into making this RDL programme happen:

The African association U-3ARC shared a post on LinkedIn recently entitled “Help, please! Flammable refrigerants are killing our people!”

Now that headline grabbed attention but sadly it also resulted in a lot of unhelpful comments – well social media often does doesn’t it? – but in this case it helped uncover a glaring perception problem that the developed world has. U-3ARC had posted the article after one of Madi’s friends had been killed in an exploding R600a system. 3 others in that building were hospitalised as well. This is reality, it’s a fact that hydrocarbons can be very dangerous in untrained hands.

Most comments were providing links to training materials or training courses – which is helpful you might think? But one major lesson we learned over the last 10 years developing the RDL programme is that in many cases the engineers needing this training have very little reading and writing skills having often never been to school or if they have then only for a few short years. The prospect for them of sitting through a 3-hour online theory exam was preposterous and many simply froze when we ran the pilot country trials. Their practical skills are often sound, but they need training in the theory and specifically on awareness of the dangers of handling flammable refrigerants – and that is not something that can be delivered in the same way we deliver training here in the UK, or in any other developed country’s training programme.

Using the #GoNatRefs hashtag may look nice and gain you algorithm hits, but it is unhelpful in the wider world as it glosses over real-world practical issues with rapid transition to highly flammable refrigerants which people like Madi can testify to first hand. »

Regard to the practical realties

« I’m not saying let’s not transition. I’m not saying let’s not use the best available solution open to us in terms of global warming potential and efficiency. But I am saying that just because something is technically feasible, it does not automatically mean it is applicable in practice everywhere.

The so called “natural refrigerants” which we are successfully transitioning toward here in the UK and Europe have many applications, but they are not suitable for every cooling or heating application. To pretend otherwise does not help any cause and on the contrary it simply makes the work that those of us do on the global level all the more difficult because policy makers love easy solutions, and they lap up the soundbites and repeat hashtags with no regard to the practical realties.

Happy to discuss this further and I’m sure Madi will be hanging around afterwards and be only too pleased to explain what the practical issues are on the ground away from our developed world perspective.

This all really does highlight an enormous challenge we face in the RACHP sector as we drive towards net zero and a more sustainable industry as a whole on a global scale and emphasises the need for international approaches and collaboration like Madi and I have been involved with the United Nations Environment Programme on. »

Continued free Trainings

« The IOR and its members have for many years supported good practice through our initiatives, such as continued REAL Alternatives free training resources on safe handling; encouragement of the Africa Centre of Sustainable Cooling; with Cold chain conferences; and work on the International Safety Standards committees and Codes of Practice. This work is more important now than ever.

Ladies, Gentlemen and distinguished guests, thank you for your attention and your support. It has been an enormous honour to serve you, our members, as the IOR President. As we continue our drive to professionalise our sector and change the culture of the industry that we work within, please continue to support your Institute as we strive to meet that challenge and contribute towards developing and delivering a fit for purpose training landscape to turn out competent refrigeration engineers and more future leaders just like the ones we have met this evening. »