The day when professional refrigeration products display an energy rating in a similar way to domestic units is drawing ever closer courtesy of legislation being created by EU policy-makers. What is it going to mean for purchasers and specifiers? FEJ got in touch with a series of experts to find out.
EFEJ consulted the following refrigeration experts about the implications of the Ecodesign Directive for buyers of commercial catering equipment:
– Catarina Marques, R&D Manager, Adande
– Chris Playford, Market & Development Director, Foster Refrigerator
– Glenn Roberts, Managing Director, Gram
– Malcolm Harling, Sales & Marketing Director, Williams Refrigeration
– Simon Frost, Chair, CESA
– Sneha Mashru, Category Manager Refrigeration, Electrolux Professional
What difference will the introduction of minimum energy performance (MEP) standards make to the average buyer from a group or chain?
Glenn Roberts: The new standards have the potential to be a complete ‘landscape changer’ in this product sector. There is potential that a fifth of all products that are currently sold in the European market place could be removed from the supply chain as they will not meet the proposed MEP standards. The new energy labelling will also help operators to clarify the purchasing process, which will initially start with an A to G scale. Thanks to this, the introduction of MEP standards will enable end-users to easily identify, compare and contrast the energy consumption of the products available to the market.
Simon Frost: Buyers will be able to select products based on efficiency, using accurate data. The MEP regulations will also prevent poorly performing products that don’t reach minimum standards, from being sold.
Sneha Mashru: Where energy efficiency has traditionally been a rather subjective term for manufacturers, the new energy ratings will be in line with the domestic labelling, with products graded between A and G. In 2018, A+ will be added, with A++ to arrive in 2019, meaning that manufacturers can look to further refine the efficiency of products in line with a strict set of guidelines. For groups or chains, this of course presents a clear benchmark against which they can compare potential equipment — with long term guarantees of product performance without having to upgrade in the future.
Catarina Marques: The MEPS will eliminate the worst performing refrigerated cabinets from the market. The cabinets will also have to pass a temperature stability test with door/drawer openings. Even though this test is less stringent than the conditions observed in a professional kitchen it will still give an indication of cabinet performance. Ultimately, the MEPs combined with a harmonised test standard aim to provide comparable information between appliances, which will help purchasing decisions for both the average buyer and group purchaser. Whether this will be accomplished in the first round or just after the regulation and standard are reviewed in five years’ time remains to be seen.
How should group buyers be preparing for the arrival of MEP standards? Is there anything they need to be doing in advance of the legislation coming into force?
Malcolm Harling: The main preparation for buyers is to ensure that they are fully aware of how the changes will affect the products that they are buying, if at all. And to be familiar with which products will be labelled from July 2016 and which will follow.
Chris Playford: The implementation of MEP standards will take some time to stabilise and buyers would be well advised to take a long-term view. These new standards will drive innovation and product improvement in energy consumption, but buyers should consider this scheme as just one of a range of criteria in their buying decision — the most important being that their choice meets their operational needs. Buyers, in preparation for the new legislation, should be aware it is coming and also ensure that the test criteria meets with their product requirements.
Catarina Marques: There is not really anything a buyer needs to be doing. It is the refrigeration manufacturers that need to carry out all the cabinet testing in advance of the legislation coming into force. The preliminary test standard is still at technical enquiry stage and it should only be approved in the second half of 2015.
Glenn Roberts: It is essential that buyers take the time to ask their key suppliers for their approach to the process, to ensure that they are ready to meet the new legislation. If the MEPS are not met, then CE approval will not be given, making it illegal to sell those products in the EU. There may also be the need to adjust capital expenditure budgets, as well as the subsequent reduction of operational expenditure costs, to recognise this significant shift.
“There is potential that a fifth of all products that are currently sold in the European market place could be removed from the supply chain as they will not meet the proposed MEP standards”
What would you say to a group purchaser currently in the process of making significant investments in refrigeration? Should they hold off making any decisions until the new regulations come into force?
Sneha Mashru: Whilst we certainly don’t think that anyone should hold off from purchasing a refrigerator, it is always advisable to look at the energy performance so that utility costs and CO2 emissions stay low. For those who are in urgent need of new equipment, the Energy Technology List can provide an indicator of which products are already achieving high levels of efficiency.
Chris Playford: If buyers have immediate requirements they should go ahead with those decisions. There is still 17 months before the legislation comes into force. Buyers should not put food safety at risk and wait. Many products available on the market are already advanced in energy consumption, so any incremental benefits will be relatively minor.
Simon Frost: They can look for guidance from the Carbon Trust’s Energy Technology List, which details the more energy efficient refrigeration products.
Malcolm Harling: No, legislation will dictate that all new products sold will require labelling i.e. those products already in the market will not be expected to be back-tested or labelled. As a manufacturer, Williams is giving careful consideration to ensure the replacement market is not affected by size, shape or operation and that we consider all our customers’ future needs.
How is your company preparing for the arrival of MEP regulations?
Glenn Roberts: We have a culture of continual development and improvement of our product range. Over the last few years, the new Ecodesign Directive has accelerated our development programmes and added a clear focus to them. We are now in the process of launching our fifth generation of products that will meet and exceed the new requirements in 2015, well before their application in 2016. This has required a complete overhaul of the product range, both in terms of its construction and the use of new technology, to enhance and improve performance and energy efficiency.
Catarina Marques: Adande has been actively engaged in the Ecodesign process from the beginning. We have a strong culture of innovation with our unique patented ‘hold the cold’ technology that retains the cold air in the drawer when opened, thus improving food quality and saving energy. We are looking at developing our test rooms and are refining our products to achieve a superior energy rating.
Sneha Mashru: We have been working to maximise the capacity, efficiency, and overall performance of the products within our range for many years. As a result we are very well prepared in terms of both infrastructure — with the laboratories we’ve developed for example — and the many experienced member of staff we have within the business. As such, when we launched our Prostore range last year, we were able to introduce refrigeration cabinets that offer up to 60 litres more usable space than the average cabinet on the market and which consume 55% less energy than standard cabinets.
Malcolm Harling: Now that the test standard has been confirmed, products including variants are being tested to confirm their efficiency. Products will undergo some modifications to maximise energy ratings. Such changes are likely to require some investment in new plant machinery as well as changes to the manufacturing process.
Chris Playford: The testing process is based on self-certification. Foster has already invested over £6m in its world-class manufacturing processes recently as part of the Foster EcoPro G2 launch, which made the facility fully compliant with all current refrigerants and low GWP foaming systems. Therefore, we have only had to make minor amends to ensure we are also fully compliant with the new MEP regulations.