The RAC sector in Australia: a key part of the economy

Based on the findings of the recent “Cold Hard Facts 3” report, the refrigeration and air-conditioning sector represents around 300,000 people employed in more than 20,000 businesses (+72% compared with 2012 figures).

Produced in September 2018 by The Expert Group for the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy, “Cold Hard Facts 3” presents figures for refrigeration and air conditioning (RAC) equipment, refrigerant, energy consumption and emissions in Australia in 2016 and compares them with 2012 figures published in the previous report.

Direct employment in the RAC sector rose from 173,000 in 2012 (1.5% of total employment) to 298,400 in 2016 (2.5%). These individuals are employed in more than 20,000 businesses operating in the industry. USD 38.11 billion were spent on purchasing, installing, maintaining and operating RAC equipment and services in 2016 (+45% compared with 2012). This total expenditure on RAC was equivalent to 2.3% of national GDP in 2016.

Including stationary and mobile air conditioning, food cold chain and domestic refrigeration equipment, there are more than 54 million individual pieces of RAC equipment operating in Australia (compared with 45 million in 2012).

This stock of equipment consumed more than an estimated 61,000 GWh of electricity in 2016, slightly more than 23.6% of the electricity production in Australia that year. RAC technology in all its forms is the single largest electricity consuming class of technology in Australia.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the RAC sector rose slightly from 64.5Mt CO2e in 2012 (11.9% of 547Mt) to 68.71Mt CO2e in 2016 (12.4% of 554Mt). This is made up of 58.7Mt CO2e of indirect emissions (that is, from electricity consumption by HVAC&R) and 10Mt CO2e of direct emissions from leaks and equipment end-of-life losses.

The total refrigerant bank in Australia in 2016 is estimated at approximately 51,000 tonnes, including HFCs (42,000 tonnes or 81% of the bank), HCFCs (8,500 tonnes; 17%), natural refrigerants (4,800 tonnes; 1.5%). This is an increase of nearly 15% as compared to the bank in 2012, and greater than a 50% increase over the decade from 2006 to 2016. The growing market for small and medium air conditioning has driven much of the growth in the bank.

In terms of CO2 equivalent emissions, the authors of the report predict the CO2e value of the Australian bank of refrigerant will peak at more than 102.6 million tonnes of CO2e in 2019 before falling steadily for the following decade as new generations of lower GWP refrigerants are introduced to the stock of equipment.

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