WFP: Keeping Cool by Going Green

Wed, 31/03/10

WFP's Armenia office had a dilemma; their ageing, inefficient air conditioning system needed replacing. On offer were a cheap unit that uses the coolant Freon, which causes holes in the Ozone layer of the Earth's atmosphere, or a more expensive unit containing Puron, a non-Ozone depleting coolant gas. Could they specify the environmentally friendly option, even if it cost a little more?

The use of Ozone-depleting gases such as Freon (technical name R-22) in air conditioning and refrigeration systems is a significant challenge for many UN agencies with operations in developing countries. Freon and other ozone depleting gases were banned from manufacture or sale in developed countries from 1 January 2010 under the internationally agreed Montreal Protocol. Developing countries have a further 10 years to phase out production and use of these gases. 

Both Ozone-depleting and non Ozone-depleting gases are also potent greenhouse gases: just 1 kilogramme of most of these gases causes as much climate change as a tonne of CO2. Like other agencies with a large field presence, some 80% of WFP’s air conditioning systems use Freon.

WFP Armenia approached  the WFP Climate Neutral and Non-Food Procurement teams to find a solution. Looking at the business case together, they realised that an air conditioning system would normally be expected to last for 15-20 years. But if an R-22-based system is purchased in 2010, within 10 years it won't be possible to purchase replacement coolant to maintain the system, leading to deteriorating performance over time and possible early failure and premature replacement costs. When viewed in the longer term, choosing the more environmentally friendly system made more sense financially too.

To help other country offices, WFP has now developed a standard procurement specification as a suggested minimum standard for sustainable procurement of air conditioning. The procurement spec also includes energy efficiency provisions to help reduce the lifetime running costs, which are often many times higher than the initial purchase price, particularly for long lived equipment and items powered  by diesel generators. The procurement standard is below:

WFP's procurement standard for non-ozone depleting cooling systems:

  • The air conditioning system (or refrigerator) must not contain any controlled substance under the Montreal Protocol for the control of Ozone Depleting Gases (eg Freon, also called R-22, or its equivalent) AND
  • It must meet the standards of the US Energy Star, European Energy Star, or another comparable energy efficiency label or accreditation; OR
  • The equipment selected should be the most cost effective over the life of the asset, including estimated lifetime energy use and maintenance costs of the equipment in addition to the initial purchase/installation price.

Categories: Buildings, Energy, Procurement