Spain leads the way in alternative refrigerants training for Europe with the support of REAL Alternatives 4 LIFE

The Spanish Environment Ministry takes refrigeration emissions seriously.  In 2017 they produced legislation that would require all air conditioning and refrigeration professional technicians to undergo a minimum of six hours of mandatory retraining in low GWP alternatives.  As one of the EU Member States with the highest dependency on cooling both in terms of buildings and food production, this is part of a national strategy to decrease dependency on high GWP F-Gas regulated refrigerants.

The Environment Ministry worked closely with the industry, in collaboration with CNI (National Confederation of Installers) to provide anaccessible, high quality training solution that would offer value for money for a workforce of approximately 15,000 technicians across the 17 regions of Spain.

CNI recommended that the Spanish Government recognises the REAL Alternatives 4 LIFE programme as one of the official training routes. This programme was prepared in 2018 by a consortium of training and association groups across Europe and co-funded by the EU LIFE funding programme for environmental initiatives.  REAL Alternatives 4 LIFE offered the Spanish trainers a range of training materials covering low GWP flammables (hydrocarbon, HFO and R32), carbon dioxide and ammonia.  The materials include lesson plans, videos, training equipment specifications, test rig design and assessments. Critically it also offers an EU-wide Certification of Technicians and Trainers who have met the required standards.

Blanca Gomez of CNI comments “We supported the Environment Ministry’s plan to have mandatory training for professional technicians but we know that the minimum 6 hours stated in our national regulation is not enough to cover all that this should include.  The REAL Alternatives 4 LIFE programme has allowed our trainers the flexibility to offer much longer courses – using some of the booklets or eLearning to recommend additional self-study for example”.

The Environment Ministry paid for the E-learning, Training Booklets and Trainer course materials and assessments to be translated into Spanish and CNI has been appointed the National Lead for REAL Alternatives in Spain. CNI has translated and revised training material and co-ordinated Train the Trainer events and Study days to improve the skills capacity of their existing refrigeration training specialists.  They are now appointing official REAL Alternatives trainers and managing the issuing of certificates to technicians who have passed practical exams at the training centres.

The leadership of the Environmental Ministry has been critical to the success story of growing awareness and high levels of take up of training in low GWP alternatives in Spain.  As well as being one of the few member states to have a tax on F-Gas, they are the first in recent years to require mandatory training in alternative refrigerants.  Refrigeration sustainability remains high on their agenda, but from a national business and industry point of view this reskilling is also important because it is addressing critical issues of safety, reliability and good maintenance practices.  These issues are at the core of the REAL Alternatives training programme approach, and they are the critical issues that must be addressed to achieve a successful transition to a low GWP refrigeration-based economy for Europe.

There has been a rapid uptake in the two REAL Alternatives practical courses that cover Flammables and Carbon Dioxide across Spain with five Official Training Providers approved so far and offering courses at the moment. This is being driven by the firm deadline in the Spanish Legislation that requires that all of the technicians complete at least six hours of training in alternative refrigerants by 21stFebruary 2021.  It is estimated that so far only around 30% of the technicians have achieved this so far, so there is a realistic expectation that take up of the training will continue to increase rapidly over the next year.