The climate impact of the refrigeration sector in Australia

According to a recent report, the refrigeration sector accounts for 24% of Australia’s electricity consumption and 11.5% of CO2 emissions. This report also identifies the main causes of direct and indirect emissions. 

A recent report (1) prepared for the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment examines the potential for reducing emissions from refrigerant leaks and electricity overconsumption due to faults in the installation, operation and maintenance of stationary refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment. 

In its introduction, this report presents the climate impact of the refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment in Australia. In 2019, these systems – representing more than 50 million individual pieces of equipment – were estimated to consume 24% of all electricity generated, resulting in a total of direct (11.5%) and indirect emissions (88.5%) of 61.28 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2e), or approximately 11.5% of national emissions.  

These total CO2 emissions from RAC equipment are broken down as follows:


  Direct emissions Indirect emissions Total Emissions % of total emissions
Stationary air conditioning 2.43 28.56 30.98 50.6

Food cold chain 

3.16 15.80 18.96 30.9
Domestic refrigeration 0.03 6.97 7.00 11.4

Mobile air conditioning 

1.40 2.94 4.34 7.1
Total 7.02 54.27 61.28 100


Direct emissions due to refrigerant leaks represented 1.2% of national emissions in 2019. The main causes of refrigerant leaks, according to a survey of refrigeration technicians and contracting businesses, were in descending order of importance: leaky mechanical joints, poor vibration elimination and lack of regular service and maintenance. 

The most common faults responsible for most of the energy penalties identified in this report are refrigerant under- or overcharge, condenser or evaporator fouling, over- or under-sizing of system capacity, and inadequate or incorrect controls and sensors.