Chairman Address 2011

I am pleased to report that since the AGM in 2010, membership of the RAC Group has grown substantially rising from 201 to 296, a 67% rise. The membership was boosted by the inclusion of 80 companies following the change in the RAC Group Byelaw 4(e) which Members voted on at the AGM May 2010 and which was subsequently approved by the HVCA Council at its meeting on 22 July 2010. The Bye-law was amended in order to reflect developments regarding company Certification under the F Gas Regulation.

The F Gas Regulation has continued to dominate the business of the RAC Group Executive. The implementation of the legislation has had, and continues to have, widespread implications for the majority of companies in our sector on a number of levels. This year, particular emphasis has been given to raising awareness of full company certification ahead of the final deadline in July 2011 by which time all Personnel that install service or maintain systems that contain or are designed to contain F-gas must have obtained one of the updated national qualifications. Naturally, the RAC Group will continue to promote and encourage full compliance of the legislation.

With regard to company registration, four company certification schemes have now been appointed by DEFRA. REFCOM has the vast majority (over 90%) of both HVCA and non-HVCA companies that have company certification. (REFCOM) is now an independent company, the RAC Group still has strong representation within REFCOM, RAC Group Executive member, Tony MacWhirter, continues to serve as the REFCOM Chairman and I serve as the REFCOM advisory committee chairman, Gareth Keller, HVCA Head of Specialist Groups also sits on the REFCOM Advisory committee which was convened on 24 June 2010 to enable continued development as a government approved certification company and to continue to be proactive collating industry views and approaching DEFRA.

Formally the REFCOM Voluntary Registration Scheme originally introduced by the RAC Group in 1994, REFCOM Elite was re-launched at the end of June 2010. At the time of publication of the Annual Report, the total number of companies registered with REFCOM Elite was 372, of which 272 are HVCA members. REFCOM Elite will continue to be the basis for the criteria for Inspection and Assessment for HVCA members undertaking refrigeration and air conditioning work and I would like to thank Tony MacWhirter and his team for their work on this project which will help to maintain the high standards we expect of RAC Group Members.

The minimum training requirement under the F-Gas Regulation has seen many companies undertaking training for the new qualifications, in which the RAC Group helped to develop, through ACRIB, with SummitSkills. There continues to be serious implications for companies with regard to timescales, the need for all operatives to undergo training by 4 July 2011 and, the additional training costs companies will face, with only 55 days to go time is running out. Therefore, I urge RAC Group members to ensure their operatives undergo the training sooner rather than later to ensure full compliancy and a smooth transition ahead of the deadline.

According to figures for January, of the 4750 companies which hold certification, only 700 (14 per cent) have full compliance, the rest hold interim documentation.

F Gas Support warned that it will actively pursue companies who only hold interim certification after the deadline in July.

F Gas Support said: “Those who do not attain full certification by July will be committing an offence. We know who currently has interim certification, and those who do not upgrade by the deadline will be on our radar, and be actively pursued”.

F Gas Support adds that the Environment Agency has a database of companies that could be involved in refrigerant handling, and will be writing to them and asking them to prove that their business does not need certification.

I would ask that they have a firmer approach than writing letters and seek out all those who attend to in scope F Gas works and not just the refrigerant handlers, DEFRA should give support to the F Gas review by ACRIB or at least the areas they feel would make a difference. F Gas works but needs some teeth to ensure compliance.

This time last year I said that HFC Heat pumps were the most efficient choice on certain applications and in some cases, the only choice, and that growth in this area was strong.

So, to better reflect the work that RAC Group members carry out, I proposed that the RAC Group name be changed to incorporate Heat Pumps. However, I, and the Executive Committee, are mindful of the impact that such a name change would have on members of the other Specialist Groups and the HVCA’s overall sustainability strategy. Therefore the RAC Group, in association with the Heating and Plumbing Group, are exploring the possibility that both groups develop heat pumps into their names, we need to let companies know that the HVCA is open for heat pumps.

At the end of 2010, the RACG Executive Committee agreed to work with Tony Bowen, President of the Heat Pump Association, to ensure the HVCA moved forward in the area of Heat Pumps.

To further demonstrate our commitment to the issue of Heat Pumps, the RACG Executive Committee is sponsoring the Heat Pump ‘Champion’ Award category at the Heat Pump Awards Event to be held at the ICC Birmingham on 23rd June 2011.

It seems fitting here to mention that Tony Bowen, President of the Heat Pump Association, recently received the H&V News Gold Award, sponsored by the HVCA, for his outstanding contribution to the heating and ventilating industry in 2010. Congratulations to Tony.

I mentioned earlier that the Group continually promotes and encourages compliance with the F Gas legislation. Sadly, enforcement and compliance has been lacking with regard to these and also Part L of the Building Regulations and in particular Energy Assessments. Air conditioning inspections continue to have one of the lowest compliance rates.

The EPBD came in for heavy criticism over the lack of enforcement of the law, particularly the air-conditioning inspection element, which ignored by eligible building owners. Government ministers recognised energy-efficiency aims would be wasted without widespread compliance.

It is incredibly wasteful of resources not to be building on the investment that has taken place.

The problem is that most building owners are unaware of their responsibility and local authorities are not enforcing the regulations. As a result, the HVCA estimates that fewer than ten per cent of the required inspections have been carried out. The maximum penalty for failing to have your system inspected is a modest fine of £300. This is unlikely to focus minds too hard.

This needs to be resolved if the carbon emission reductions, expected from the air conditioning inspections, can be delivered. John Smith, RACG Executive Member and Gareth Keller, HVCA Head of Specialist Group Services entered into correspondence with the Government Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) on this very issue. While the initial response from DCLG demonstrated a lack of understanding, the correspondence is beginning to raise awareness, to Government, about the issues relating to compliance. It’s a small step but, it’s a start and I would like to thank John and Gareth for their efforts.

We call upon Government to take a tougher line, our members, have invested in air-conditioning inspectors, yet no-one seems compelled to have the inspections.

Energy efficiency is such a large part of our works. Therefore it is vital to have representation on this and other matters not only at National level but within the EU also. Graeme Fox, RAC Executive member and President of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration European Association (AREA) Board, AREA represents 19 European countries, representing more than 9,000 companies across Europe (mainly small to medium sized enterprises), employing some 125,000 people and with an annual turnover approaching € 20 billion .I have served, as Chairman of the Energy Efficiency Task Group, we have both continued to be the Group representatives at regular AREA meetings including at the General Assembly meeting held in Cracow, Poland on 8/9 May 2010. The RAC Group also hosted the AREA General Assembly meeting in Dundee last week (6-7 May).

We commend The French Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development it is proposing a ban on sales of pre-charged split AC systems to the public, creating tension between European bodies. However the proposal has caused a conflict of interests between AREA, which originally proposed the move for the continent and the European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE), which represents manufacturers, among other parties.

AREA president Graeme Fox said: “Despite the best efforts by EPEE to counter the ban to suit the interests of its members, the French government is standing firm and seriously considering the proposed ban on pre-charged systems. “Having a qualified engineer install these systems is a logical step to further reduce refrigerant emissions and tighten F-Gas regulation.”

I would like to thank Graeme is his lead as President and Chairman of the F Gas task force, we are fully behind you to seek implementation of the F Gas regulation at a European level.

The RAC Group has also continued to be actively involved with the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Industry Board (ACRIB) which provides a central forum for all sectors and interests which fall within or are served by the air conditioning and refrigeration industry. RAC Executive member Steve Adams currently serves as the ACRIB Chairman , I have been made a Director of ACRIB and serve along with Tony MacWhirter, Graeme Fox, Gareth Keller and Roger Brown, we have been instrumental in many issues these include:

  • F Gas Regulation implementation and preparations for the EU Review of Effectiveness

The ACRIB F Gas review group has provided a paper for government Mike Knankaville chairs this group well and we give thanks to Mike for all his valued work.

The paper makes three key recommendations among others which industry believes will increase the effectiveness of the F Gas Regulation in the UK.

  • That refrigerant suppliers be responsible for ensuring that only appropriately certified individuals can be supplied with F Gas refrigerants.
  • Company certification bodies be authorized to carry out greater verification of applicants.
  • More active enforcement and increased policing of operators’ legal obligations under the Regulation to take place.

Other ACRIB works include

  • The encouragement of take up of Company Certificates
  • Tracking the NVQ review and revised occupational standards
  • The World Skills competitions and Skill Fridge
  • promoting and managing the ACRIB Register of refrigerant handlers
  • Monitoring the development of qualifications for carbon dioxide and hydrocarbon refrigerants
  • revisions to the Refrigeration Safety Standard EN378, energy using products directive, ODS regulation, health and safety issues, WEEE, and many others

The Executive has continually strived to improve and develop standards over the past year through full agendas at Executive meetings. Clearly, the RAC Group is still active as ever and in good shape to progress in the future. This is evident in the increasing activity of our existing Group Branches in the South West and the East of England. I am extremely delighted that both these Branches meet regularly and are well attended.

This past year has also seen the introduction of a further two RAC Group Branches which have met on a more informal basis to compliment the HVCA Regional meetings. This can only be good for our Group. The Branch meetings provide an extremely valuable input to the Executive. They also provide an excellent opportunity for members to voice concerns and ideas and to keep abreast of industry developments and initiatives. I urge members to participate where possible by coming along to local meetings. No member is so small that their views are not important, nor so big that they cannot gain some more benefit from the specialists in the Association. I would like to thank all the Branch Chairman and secretaries, for their enthusiasm, commitment and hard work in maintaining and developing this growing network, these are :-

The South West Group Branch
ChairmanJohn Hulse
SecretaryWayne Raven
The East of England Branch
ChairmanJohn Scott Gleed
SecretaryMark Oakes
Vice ChairmanJohn Smith
Kent Branch
ChairmanKaren Leader
Midlands Branch
ChairmanGary McVeigh

The decision by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to refer air-source heat pumps for further analysis of the costs involved before they could be accepted into the full incentive scheme was a cruel blow. Many in our sector blame the damning report by the Energy Saving Trust last year, which concluded that air-source heat pumps rarely reached their design performance levels due to poor installation and over-complicated control systems. The DECC said the reason was that “more work is needed to better understand the costs associated with the technology and, for air-to-air heat pumps, we have not yet developed a means of measuring direct air heating”.

The government’s reason that the most ubiquitous heat pump has been left out in the cold is due to question marks over the technology, largely because they are not sure how best to measure the heat benefits. It is a body blow to the ASHP sector, many of whom were banking on the RHI to help convince commercial clients that the technology is a better option that sooty old biomass which relays heavily on the fuel being dry to allow the claimed COP being delivered.

There may be less financial incentive to install ASHP’s, but there are plenty of carbon benefits that can be achieved with their specification.

The RHI consultation issued under the previous government left the industry in no doubt that air-source heat pumps had an important role to play in achieving carbon emission reduction targets.

Contractors are the front line in the RACHP industry and are often the people who know their clients and products best. So there is no greater pleasure than to see your industry colleagues rewarded for their exemplary service or outstanding performance throughout the year.

The RAC Group once again sponsored the RAC Contractor of the Year Award category at the Cooling Industry Awards held at The Hilton Hotel, Park Lane on 29 September 2010. The prize is awarded to refrigeration and air conditioning contractors and installers that demonstrate significant progress in the development and adoption of environmentally friendlier solutions and working practices.

This was the third and final year that the RAC Group will be sponsoring the ‘RAC Contractor of the Year’ award category and this year’s winner was CIA Coldservice. Congratulations to CIA Coldservice.

Ceilite was also a finalist; a first I am told that the person presented the award was also a finalist.

It is also important that new talent is encouraged to enter our sector and to that end, the RAC Group sponsored a number of training awards and events such as the SKILLFRIDGE Competition. Run by SummitSkills, the competition is designed to promote standards and skills across the refrigeration and air conditioning industry, and to develop competence into excellence.

We also have an award winner amongst us today. I am very pleased to announce that Christopher Leech of Adcock Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Ltd is the Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Apprentice of the Year and will receive the Harry Decker Award 2011 this afternoon. Christopher has excelled in his studies and has taken every opportunity to learn and develop his skills and I have no doubt that he has a great future in the RAC industry. Congratulations Christopher.

In closing I would also like to thank members of the RACG Executive committee for their continuing support over the past 12 months.

  • Vice Chairman, Tony Williams,
  • Immediate Past Chairman, Karen Leader
  • and other Exec Members
  • Graeme Fox, Tony MacWhirter, Neil Yates, George Jackson,
  • Dennis Wheelhouse, Steve Adams, John Smith, Malcolm Thomson, Gary
  • McVeigh and our newest member Pat Hubbard

The RAC Exec will continue to promote and improve the professionalism of Members, I strongly believe the RACG is positioned well to serve the industry and as I come to the end of my first of what I hope to be a 3 year term I promise that we will continue to question and to challenge for the better of our members and the industry as a whole.

  • Scott Gleed
  • Chairman