Cool Talks

Cool Talks: An interview series with GCI network members

In our "Cool Talks" interview series, members of the Green Cooling Initiative Network and beneficiaries 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.

Cool Talks: "Na­tu­ral or no ref­ri­ge­r­ants are the on­ly way we can en­su­re a fu­ture for all"

12.03.2021 , News :

At shecco, Pilar Aleu and Ilana Koegelenberg both advocate for more climate-friendly cooling. We asked them about their motivation, the upcoming natural refrigerant tradeshow and why we need more women in the industry.

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In celebration of International Women's Day 2021, we are highlighting two female members of our Green Cooling network and representatives of the refrigeration and air conditioning industry. Pilar Aleu and Ilana Koegelenberg both work at market accelerator 'shecco (opens in a new window)'.

shecco helps companies bring their climate-friendly solutions faster to market. In the heating, cooling and refrigeration sector, they specialise in integrated services and products to advance the use of the five natural refrigerants carbon dioxide (CO2), ammonia (NH3), hydrocarbons (HC), water and air. The group operates from four locations, spanning various activities, industries and continents. Their portfolio comprises activities in three areas: media (opens in a new window)events (opens in a new window) and market development (opens in a new window).

Pilar, Ilana – you both have different academic backgrounds. How did you get into ozone and climate protection and how long have you been working in this field?

Pilar: I worked in variety of organisations before shecco - from a car manufacturer to a Consulate in Mumbai (India). Almost seven years ago, I joined the shecco team and immersed myself into the natural refrigerants world.

Since the beginning, I’ve been very involved in the ATMOsphere conferences, where I’ve had the fantastic opportunity to meet hundreds of colleagues, partners and customers all around the globe. I’m currently Business Development Manager covering Europe and America regions, which allows me to influence and be part of the development of our activities and projects while keeping those relationships built over the years.

Traditional cooling systems are a significant contributor to global warming because of the energy consumption and the use of high GWP refrigerants, and I’m happy and proud of our work to transition to a better, cleaner and more efficient industry.

Ilana, what about you?

Ilana: I studied Journalism and Media studies at Rhodes University in South Africa, obtaining a post graduate degree. I then actually got into the agricultural media side of things for a few years before stumbling upon the HVAC&R industry. I started as a writer for the RACA Journal (opens in a new window) (Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Africa) and Cold Link Africa (opens in a new window) industry magazines, quickly working myself up to Editor for both. I stayed here for nearly a decade, visiting refrigeration and air-conditioning installations and writing about it. I knew about shecco for many years and often connected with their team members at global events like Chillventa. So, to be able to join the team in 2019, was an absolute dream come true!


Most rewarding experience

At shecco, I manage the Market Intelligence department, which combines our Media and Market Development teams into one super team of natural refrigerant experts. We cover everything from policy and project coordination, to tailor-made market research and media products. We’re the ones that make it happen behind the scenes.

Ilana, you have said that working for shecco is "a dream come true". Looking back at your career path in HVAC&R: What was one of the most rewarding experiences?

Ilana: There are so many. Just being able to serve the local HVAC&R industry for such a long time, was in itself so rewarding. You build a lot of personal relationships and really get invested in the projects and players. I think, in a literally “reward” sense, it was the South African Institute of Refrigeration and Air Conditioning (opens in a new window) (SAIRAC) giving me their annual award for biggest contribution to the South African HVAC&R industry in 2019 as I was leaving. This meant a lot to me.

Pilar, what was your most rewarding experience?

Pilar: It’s very difficult to choose only one. Having the feeling that you are contributing to something big and important to our future is very rewarding. From a personal level, I started in shecco as a trainee, that professional growth linked to a meaningful business cause has meant a lot to me too.

Listening to you, one notices how passionate you are about your job. Why is environmental protection a matter of the heart for you?

Pilar: We should all care about the environment. I don’t think it’s even a choice anymore. I feel touched by the people and, especially young generations, who are increasingly speaking up and urging governments and companies to do something about environment.

Ilana: I agree with Pilar. All people should inherently care about the environment – it seems illogical not to.

Speaking of environmental protection: For the second time, shecco is hosting a virtual trade show to further push sustainable cooling and natural refrigerants. What will be different at this trade show than at the first one?

Pilar: By taking what worked from the first edition and adding improvements to the functionality and design based on the feedback from exhibitors and partners, we’re confident to deliver the most innovative event of the year for the cooling industry.

Infobox VTS

Shecco’s second virtual trade show for natural refrigerants, ATMO VTS 2.0, will be held from March 30–31, 2021. According to the organisers, the first ATMO VTS, which took place on September 1–2, attracted more than 4,500 registered attendees and 75 exhibitors from the natural refrigerants industry. “ATMO VTS 2021 will give that ‘real’ trade show feeling, which is much needed these days,” says Marc Chasserot, CEO of shecco. 


Some of the highlights this year are: 20+ live webinars and discussion panels on policy and end user’s best practices, the Innovation of the Year, the VTS Guide, new designs and overall improved platform functionality to maximise exhibitors and attendees’ participation.

What are you most looking forward to at the trade show?

Pilar: I’m looking forward to seeing and meeting existing and new companies working on natural refrigerants or planning to do so in the near future. We had 4,500+ attendees registered last year, and we expect to have even more this time around!

Future RAC sector

GIZ Proklima/Green Cooling Initiative will also be a part of the virtual trade show on natural refrigerants.

Ilana: For me, I’m very excited about our impressive webinar programme, especially the EU Policy Panel that will feature very important stakeholders in the F-Gas Regulation Revision process. Especially in a year where the Regulation is currently under review, being able to get information directly from the key players is invaluable.

There is certainly also a vision behind the trade show... What would an ideal refrigeration and air conditioning sector look like in the future?

Pilar: I’d like to see the wide adoption of Clean Cooling which was defined by Professor Toby Peters. Clean Cooling represents a holistic approach to HVACR systems that incorporates the most efficient and environmentally friendly technologies while addressing the pressing societal need for cooling equipment in developing countries.

Ilana: It would look responsible. Responsible cooling. Responsible recycling. Reporting. Trading. Just being responsible and not harming the environment. In terms of refrigerants, natural or no refrigerants is the only way we can ensure a future for all.

Plea­se com­ple­te

The biggest obstacle for Green Cooling at the moment is…

  • Pilar: To challenge the status-quo.
  • Ilana: Policy barriers.

There should be more women in refrigeration and air conditioning because…

  • Pilar: We need more women in all careers, especially in those that have been dominated by men. I’d like to see more women attending and speaking at our conferences and being interviewed by my journalist colleagues. If you are reading this and are interested in being featured, let us know!
  • Ilana: There should be more women in ALL careers that were previously male-dominated for sexist reasons. But personally, I don’t like glorifying "women in the industry"… Women should be celebrated because they are good at their job, not because of their gender. If you’re good at what you do, your gender should not even be mentioned in the acclaim.

I love my job because…

  • Pilar: Variety of responsibilities, innovative projects, global activities, and a GREAT team!
  • Ilana: Because every day is different; and I get to meet amazing people and do amazing things on the daily. Getting up in the morning and knowing that you are fighting on the "right side", is something that makes it worth getting up for. Especially when you have a great team by your side.  

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