What are the main obstacles to achieving the self-imposed targets by 2030?
Currently, our budget is the main limiting factor. We can’t just print money whenever we need it (laughs). At present, we are concerned about the rapidly increasing need for investment. Retailers are under pressure in Europe because the EU regulation already took effect from 1 January 2020. What’s more, they have 20%–30% higher costs for the same components compared to what they had to pay 3 years ago, which is a massive increase. As I see it, costs are even likely to continue to rise. This is driven by the demand for the materials used in the new refrigeration systems. For instance, stainless steel, copper and platinum, all of which are precious metals. It’s ultimately the gold of the modern age that is being processed here, and resources are limited, and that drives up prices.
Olaf, today’s energy market is a highly regulated area. What would you wish for in terms of energy policy and what would help us as a wholesaler?
From 2020 onwards, only recycled refrigerants with a low GWP may be used within the EU, but there are of course F-gas systems that could still be operational in 2030. So my message to political decision-makers would be to keep F-gas systems up and running that produce no emissions or very low emissions. After all, refrigeration systems are not problematic because of F-gases, but because of leakages. So if leakages could be prevented from occurring over a long period, the environmental impact would be considerably reduced. Our 12 refrigeration systems in Austria have a steady leakage rate of 2%, which means that 8 installations produce no emissions at all and 4 produce a small quantity of emissions. In my opinion, it would make sense to continue operating these systems and then replace them with new ones at a later date.
My second request to the politicians would be that we somehow get rewarded for this extensive research and development work, for example, through subsidies. As a wholesaler, we have taken a pioneering path towards achieving the F-gas exit, and we have done this in all 36 METRO countries. This has cost us an enormous amount of resources. Finding an approach here to make this path a little easier for retail companies and honouring innovation and research in the process would be a concession in itself.
Thank you for this interview, Olaf – and good luck on the home straight to the 2030 target.