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Cool Talks: "Every day is an op­por­tun­ity to make an im­pact"

23/03/2021 , Actualité :

As the NASRC Executive Director, Danielle Wright drives the adoption of natural refrigerants in North American supermarkets. We spoke to her about her motivation, current politics in the US and why Europe is a role model when it comes to HFC-free refrigeration.

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Danielle has worked in the energy efficiency and sustainability field for more than ten years. Since 2017, she has been part of NASRC (North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council), an action-oriented environmental non-profit organization removing barriers for natural refrigerants in commercial refrigeration applications. Together with its network, the NASRC takes collective action to accelerate the adoption of climate-friendly refrigeration technologies. NASRC’s fields of work range from developing incentive funding, driving updates to codes and standards, increasing technician training and providing clarity & data to reduce uncertainty for supermarkets on the return on investment of different natural refrigerant technologies.

Prior to her role at NASRC, Danielle oversaw the EnergySmart Grocer program, a third-party energy efficiency program serving the grocery sector in the Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) territory. Under her management, the program saved over 100 million kWh from energy efficiency retrofits primarily in refrigeration.

Danielle, you studied International Relations. Today, you’re the Executive Director of NASRC. How did you get into the refrigeration sector professionally?

I loved studying International Relations. It was fascinating to learn how policy could drastically impact economic and human health. At the time, I secretly hoped it might bring me back to France where I grew up.

My last semester in school I took a class on sustainable living that shifted my focus completely. I became passionate about the built environment; particularly how energy efficiency opportunities could translate to both environmental wins and business wins. Supermarkets are a perfect example because of their high energy-use intensity and low-margins. Every dollar saved on energy costs contributes exponentially to the bottom line.

In the US, the lack of regulatory certainty has created a negative reinforcing cycle that keeps demand low. It starts with high-cost premiums for natural refrigerant technologies, which are between 20% to 200% higher than traditional HFC systems. This drives low adoption rates, lack of performance data, and a service workforce that is unprepared and untrained in natural refrigerants. Since manufacturers aren’t able to generate the volume of demand to achieve economies of scale, costs remain high and continues to perpetuate low demand.

To bridge the gap, we’ve been working to drive funding opportunities in California, where there are more stringent regulations. But stronger federal leadership is needed through funding mechanisms like tax credits or accelerated depreciation to drive demand and drive economies of scale. This is why I say I am concerned that the Kigali Amendment will not get us there fast enough. Effective policies coupled with financial incentives have the power to reverse this negative reinforcing cycle, remove barriers, and ultimately make natural refrigerants a good business choice.

Truth be told: Do you personally have a climate-friendly fridge or air conditioner at home?

My house does not have air-conditioning, the most climate-friendly option! I am actually holding out installing AC until we have natural refrigerant-based units available. The US only recently approved climate-friendly domestic fridges (see list here). My fridge at home is older but I will certainly take the steps to properly recycle and purchase a new climate-friendly fridge once it’s time to replace.

Please com­plete 

The biggest obstacle for Green Cooling at the moment is…
"Higher first costs compared to HFC technologies."

There should be more women in refrigeration and air conditioning because…
"Every industry benefits from diversity."

I love my job because…
"Every day is an opportunity to make an impact."

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In our "Cool Talks" interview series, members of the Green Cooling Initiative Network share their vision of Green Cooling. The GCI Network is an alliance of key players in the refrigeration, air-conditioning & foam sector. It comprises government institutions, international organisations and the private sector. They are united on one goal: the transformation of the cooling sector – for the benefit of people, the environment, and our shared future.