The European Commission has launched a product-specific preparatory study analysing the technical, economic, environmental, market and societal aspects of refrigerated containers with a view to developing adequate policy approaches.
Refrigerated containers have integrated refrigeration units that require an external power supply either e.g. on board of a ship (through the connection to the ship's power supply or to an extra power pack such as a diesel generator); or on land (through the connection to the terminal power system or a generator set). Today very few regulations - if any - are addressing the environmental impacts of refrigerated containers. The original preparatory study for the ecodesign working plan 2016-2019 has identified several environmental impacts of refrigerated containers: Energy consumption; Direct emissions to air; Use of F-gases; Durability; Water consumption (for water cooled condensers); Use of critical raw materials; Presence of flame retardants; Presence of plasticisers; or End-of-life aspects. The study shows that for most of the environmental impacts there is a significant improvement potential, energy efficiency being the front runner with an estimated primary annual energy saving of 17 petajoules (PJ) in 2020 and 21 PJ in 2030. Refrigerated containers do not fall under the strict category of "means of transport", as they can be used on ships, but also stationary in ports and as modular and temporary cold storage rooms. As such they are "energy-related products" under ecodesign and energy labelling. For these reasons, the working plan 2016-2019 listed refrigerated containers as one of the new products groups for which a dedicated preparatory study is to be launched.
The product-specific preparatory study was carried out by Viegand Maagøe A/S, Armines and the Wuppertal Institute for the European Commission, DG Energy. Contract manager was VITO NV. The study started in March 2019 and was finished in November 2020.