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GEMS: Greenhouse & Energy Minimum Standards

GEMS - the Greenhouse & Energy Minimum Standards - regulates energy efficiency and environmental performance in commercial refrigeration.

Find out how forthcoming changes to GEMS could affect your business and why SKOPE is making sure it's models are GEMS Ready long before the rules change in 2021.

 See also:

What is GEMS?

GEMS is the framework for regulating energy efficiency and environmental impact in many types of products manufactured, imported, and retailed in Australia and New Zealand - not just commercial refrigeration. 

It was established by the GEMS Act of 2012 in Australia.

GEMS is administered by E3 (Equipment Energy Efficiency), a program jointly run by the governments of Australia and New Zealand. Each country has its own GEMS regulator that manages product testing and compliance enforcement.

A central component of GEMS is the public online database where you can check the performance data on a product which complies with the rules. 

How is GEMS Changing?

A GEMS determination in 2019 set the stage for changes to regulations that would:

  • Update the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) ratings using internationally recognised Energy Efficiency Index (EEI) data
  • Broaden the scope to include the most commonly used types of commercial refrigeration
  • Align Australian and New Zealand standards with international standards
  • Include Energy Star ratings for each model

Due to COVID-19, the mandatory implementation of these changes has been delayed to May 2021.

How do these Changes to GEMS Impact My Business?

The performance of commercial refrigeration can vary in the extreme, with differences in technology not necessarily reflected in the price of different models.

This has made it very hard for many businesses to determine the operational cost, lifetime value, and environmental impact of the fridges and freezers they invest in.

The changes to GEMS will shed light on this problem and encourage businesses of all sizes to make wiser choices. The data showing the performance of commercial refrigeration in four categories (display, storage, ice cream freezer, and ice cream scoop) will be published online on the GEMS database for everyone to see.

Convenience Stores, Restaurants, Cafes and Bar Owners

When it's possible for a convenience store to spend 55-70% of their power bill on refrigeration, the lack of transparency around running costs can lead to hugely unnecessary OPEX spend and impacts on the environment.

But even small businesses using less refrigeration than a convenience store are impacted, because they typically work in very low margin food service industries like hospitality.

Making one uninformed fridge or freezer purchase can mean the difference between saving $600 a year on power every year. It’s like opting into a $600 annual tax – not ideal when every dollar counts.

With the changes to GEMS, small business owners who can learn to navigate the GEMS database could save themselves thousands of dollars a year while doing more to reduce their carbon footprint.

Beverage Distributors and other Businesses Managing Display Fridge Fleets

At the corporate end of the scale, the impacts multiply exponentially.

A beverage company leasing thousands of display fridges to vendors faces risk as the changes to GEMS bring the differences between refrigeration models into focus.

It becomes harder to retain customers and attract new ones if competitors are offering refrigeration that is almost twice as efficient at the same price, and they have independent data on the public GEMS database to point to.

Metrics in the GEMS database like Total Energy Consumption (TEC) and the Energy Star rating have a direct relationship to a fridge or freezers environmental impact.

This means, for the first time, that fleet-scale owners of commercial refrigeration will be able to easily find data that will help them understand the global warming impact of their asset choices.

According to E3, commercial refrigeration accounts for almost 4% of all global warming emissions in Australia and 6% in New Zealand.

Buyer Beware!

The GEMS database will grow as different manufacturers register their products up to the May 2021 deadline.

However, despite this, it's still possible for:

  • Manufacturers and Suppliers to sell refrigeration that won't be compliant beyond the deadline (up to May 2021)
  • Retailers to sell-down all of the non-compliant stock they bought in before the deadline

On top of this, the end users of non-compliant refrigeration could also face financial penalties, as stipulated in the GEMS Act of 2012.

Regulators are expected to focus on manufacturers and retailers, but the businesses that purchase and use non-compliant fridges and freezers won't be able to rule out compliance enforcement issues. From May 2021, purchasing non-compliant refrigeration in Australia could result in measures that include a civil penalty of more than AU $13,000 (60 penalty units).


What Can I Do to Protect My Business?

Stay informed and seek expert advice.

While you can access the public GEMS database at any time, the data on it will be slowly changing over the course of the next year as more manufacturers register their product. SKOPE has registered almost 200 of its products to make them GEMS-ready for the changes in May 2021.

The data it contains can also be technical, so we advise seeking expert advice from a SKOPE consultant or a member of the Foodservice Consultants Society International.

If you decide to dive into the database, look at more than just the energy star rating.

These data points are essential for understanding the performance of refrigeration:



Next: GEMS Ready: What Does it Mean?

Find out what it means for a SKOPE fridge or freezer to be GEMS Ready.