To ensure a successful transition to a decarbonized built environment, the industry will be required to focus on the “journey” towards electrification rather than attempting to sprint to the finish line. Along with the ongoing labour shortage, this was the main theme of the Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada’s (HRAI) annual conference, which was held at the Westin in Ottawa from Sept. 18 to 20.
The event kicked off with a networking event at the Westin’s Twenty-Two facility. Attendees were able to interact and have a cocktail or two, while several speeches were made by the association.
Over the next two days of the conference, attendees participated in a jam-packed schedule of fun-filled activities, such as a brewery tour, bike tour, and aerial park. Although the rain and some confusion regarding Queen Elizabeth’s celebration of life event resulted in some cancellations.
The conference held several panel discussions, which kicked off the event. Titled “Climate Change Panel,” attendees heard from several industry leaders regarding the current global view on climate change, the realities of this issue on the Canadian economy, and how the HVAC/R sector is positioned to assist in reaching global goals. “Climate issue for us is definitely going to be more of a journey rather than a destination,” explained Terry Duguid, member of parliament for the Winnipeg South constituency.
Oftentimes when people get into the electrification conversation, they focus on the concerns. “Concern in Ontario is if we overload the grid, then we might see more natural gas technology and that’s something we are trying to avoid,” explained Janice Ashworth, project manager at the City of Ottawa’s climate change unit. “Ground source heat pumps are more stable, and this might be something pushed more in the future.”
Another concern for the industry relies on whether or not there are enough deep retrofit contractors required to perform all these energy-efficiency retrofits. Throughout the conference, whenever a particularly intriguing topic was about to be brought up, the moderator would refer to the “elephant in the room,” or, with a more Canadian twist, the “buffalo in the room.” This was always followed by a low chuckle from attendees.
The first one mentioned was whether or not the net zero goals, or targets, will actually be attainable. “If we plan as if we are going to reach them, then we are more likely to attain them,” stated Ashworth.
For the climate change panel, Sandy MacLeod, president and CEO of HRAI, prepared four pages of questions but wasn’t able to get past the first page because of the complicated nature of the topics at hand.
Spending the money
At every annual general meeting, there is a reading of the financial statement to allow members to transparently see the work being done by the association. Most of the time during these questioning periods, there is little to be reported. But this year’s session was a bit more lively.
According to Frank Diecidue, director of finance and operations for HRAI, who presented the audited financial statement to the crowd, the association’s goal for this year and the next two is to grow membership by 10 per cent each year. They are also hoping to receive funding from the government to run programs related to training.
One audience member asked for a more detailed account on how they were spending funds when it came to federal versus provincial government. There has been quite an increase in how much the association spends on government relations. Back in 2017-2018, the association annually would spend around $200,000. Now, they are annually spending around $800,000 and suspect this number will increase to close to a million dollars, reported MacLeod.
There were two speakers as part of the refrigeration panel discussions. The first was Michel Gauvin, head of ozone layer protection programs for the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). He explained to the audience how, through the Paris Agreement, Canada vowed to reduce its annual consumption of hydrofluorocarbon, or rather HFCs, by 85 per cent by 2036. When asked whether or not this timeline will change, he said that unless it changes between all the countries that have signed this agreement, then this timeline remains the goal.
The next reduction date to remember is Jan. 1, 2024, when the reduction target is 40 per cent from the baseline. “This is a significant step in the journey to 85 per cent reductions,” explains Gauvin.
Pushpinder Rana, senior manager and industry relations for the HVAC division at Mitsubishi Electric Sales Canada Inc, gave the second presentation. He focused more on A2L refrigerants and explained that the updated code for next year is expected to include content related to A2L refrigerants. Additionally, updated references to CSA B52 are expected to be published in 2023. “This means new refrigerant tables and safety guidelines,” explained Rana.
The final keynote presentation was given on the last day of the conference by Bruce Lourie, president of the Ivey Foundation. He stressed the importance of educating Canadians on why there need to be more changes coming to the built environment, “We need to make sure that people understand why they are making changes to their living spaces,” said Lourie. “Mother nature has its own HVAC system and it’s getting a bit out of control.”
At the 54th annual conference, several awards were handed out. This included the Merit Award to Bruce Passmore, region manager of HVAC/R, Canada East, at Emco, which is given in recognition of the outstanding contribution by an industry representative to the development and progress of the Institute and the Canadian HVAC/R industry.
The Warren Heeley Environmental Award was given to Jim Bolger, owner and president of Waterloo Energy Products, in recognition of a significant contribution to environmental services. This year’s President’s Award recipients were Francis Belle, president at FM Residential, and the City of Vancouver (accepted by Chris Higgins, senior green building planner at the City of Vancouver), which is given in recognition of a significant contribution to HRAI and the industry. The president determines the recipients of the award each year.
The Life Member Award was given to Peter Steffes, owner of Ideal Heating & Cooling Ltd, which is given to an individual who has made a significant contribution to HRAI and the industry for 20 years or more.
The date and location for the 55th annual conference has yet to be announced.