A regulation and its unknowns


The text of the review of the Regulation 517 about greenhouse fluorinated gases opens different fronts, extremely delicate and rich in interpretation risks that will generate potential misunderstandings and ambiguities, in our opinion decisively counterproductive for the market

In our modest opinion, there are two principles in drawing up a law text that should be binding: its clarity and its applicative user-friendliness, to facilitate players’ work. Well, according to us the text proposed for the abrogation and the replacement of the F-Gas Regulation contains some passages about which the risk of dangerous interpretative ambiguities is high indeed, with the operational consequence of generating borderline behaviours that might avail themselves of a restrictive interpretation or of a missing compliance against the excessive proposed severity.
Our magnifying glass will focus only on article 10, apparently not the most relevant but certainly delicate for the implications that its application on the field will imply, by both manufacturers’, installers’ and maintenance technicians’.

Article 10, unclear competences and tasks
We are finally happy of ascertaining an important fact: at the paragraph l of the new text, they clearly mention the need of certified competences and not only in the field of fluorinated gases but also in the one (precisely promoted by the Regulation’s intents) of alternative gases to them, no matter what they are. The text in fact recites “Member States establish or adapt … certification programmes, including assessment processes, and assure the availability of training courses about practical competences and theoretical knowledge intended for physical people … concerning greenhouse F-gases … and the alternatives to greenhouse fluorinated gases”.
A substantial leap forward, which will engage Union’s member States to formalize competences and knowledge, to set up suitable training programmes and certification schemes that concern the three topics still highlighted at paragraph 1 and that is to say installation, service, maintenance, repair or dismantling of equipment, control of leaks in equipment and recovery.
Let us pay attention to one item, the emphasis on leaks, dismantling and recovery: a theme that should already alert us concerning the formal and substantial pressure is aimed at facing the real risk contained in a transition process. Therefore, it must not only pursue the replacement of the refrigerating technology but it must consciously take charge of all that is in use today and must be certainly brought to the end of the service life, but with due criteria, to avoid that “old” gases, the most noxious ones, are anyway dispersed.
Besides, if we are really satisfied with this emphasis and the inclusion of alternative gases among the themes on which to train knowledge and competences, and then certifying them, at paragraph 7 we find written that “The current training certificates issued pursuant the (EU) regulation n. 517/2014 remain valid at the conditions of their original release”.
Well, in Italy the matter is really delicate: the existing certification was born before the EU Regulation and a massive quantity of certifications was issued in 2013, one year before the Regulation publication. These certifications have decennial value and they therefore imply they will expire in 2023: the question “what should we do?” arises spontaneously.
Do we replicate a certification that had not (and it could not have it, it did not exist, yet) the Regulation as base? To consider it as valid for further ten years, in coexistence with an “enhanced” version of the Regulation? Or – worse – shall we impose that those who renovate the certification today will be compelled in 2024 to do a fully new certification taking into account – finally – the European Regulation but paying twice, the first for a certification that has now been archived and the second for a certification that is updated and in keeping with the standard?
It is conceived the idea of putting in stand-by the renovation of certifications for 2023 and to postpone all renewals to when a training programme and a suitable certification scheme for the topicality will be available, including subjects concerning those “alternative” gases that, as we have said for a long time now, imply new important awareness of the safety theme, in virtue of their characteristics of flammability, explosiveness and toxicity.
Besides, we welcome at paragraph 8 the solicitation not to lose time, a solicitation that however still lends itself to ambiguities, because the text states “Within January 1st [OR: put in the date corresponding to one year after the coming into force of the current regulation] member States communicate certification and training programmes to the Commission.” We already know that more than someone will try forcing the expression “coming into force”, making it coincide with the publication date of national implementing and transposition decrees, but that is it!