Emerson rebranded its Emerson Climate Technologies business as Copeland in May 2023 following Blackstone’s acquisition of the majority stake in the business. What is the expected impact of this move — both on the company and on the global HVAC&R industry?
In an exclusive interview, Refrigeration Industry speaks to Copeland’s Ross B. Shuster (Chief Executive Officer) about what this acquisition means for customers; its ongoing investment in natural refrigerant manufacturing and innovation; and the future of the Copeland brand. What’s new?
Refrigeration Industry (RI): Since the acquisition by Blackstone last year, what are the key strategic priorities for Copeland?
Ross B. Shuster (RBS): Copeland is built on a strong foundation, and a history, of innovation and customer focus. The private equity sponsorship by Blackstone has allowed us to become a standalone-focused company. This will allow us to invest further in the company to make it even stronger by advancing next-generation sustainable heating, cooling, and refrigeration solutions.
We are focused on advancing our leadership position via differentiated technologies and manufacturing capabilities while maintaining a strong customer focus. We see growth opportunities, both organic and inorganic in several key areas, including electronic controls, heat pumps, and industrial compression technologies.
RI: How will the transition to natural refrigerants and the recent acquisition impact Copeland's existing product portfolio, especially your compressor offerings?
RBS: Copeland supports the global proliferation of CO2, R290, and ammonia (NH3) across a diverse range of applications – from residential and commercial AC, chillers, and heat pumps to commercial and industrial refrigeration.
As the US takes its next steps in the refrigerant transition, CO2 and R290 are poised for wider adoption over the next several years. To support this growth, we recently introduced CO2 transcritical and subcritical semi-hermetic manufacturing lines in the US. We are also building on our existing R290-optimized Copeland scroll compressor designed to support higher refrigerant charges in self-contained equipment.
The new North American lines have built on our manufacturing capabilities across Europe in Mikulov, (Czech Republic), Welkenraedt (Belgium), and Cookstown (Ireland). Our expanded domestic and global manufacturing footprint demonstrates our commitment to meet the growing demand for sustainable refrigeration technology, ensuring regional product availability for our growing customers.
RI: Could you elaborate on the company’s current initiatives and future plans regarding developing and adopting natural refrigerant solutions?
RBS: With our global manufacturing footprint and extensive industry experience, Copeland is innovating and delivering solutions to drive the use of lower-GWP refrigerants. Our innovations are necessary across multiple paths as different regions and industries around the world adopt varying approaches to the refrigerant transition — such as the adoption of R290 in Europe and A2Ls in the US, and also the continued growth of CO2 for refrigeration applications.
We continue to make investments in the development of lower-GWP refrigerants. We recently completed an innovation lab in our Ohio facility focused on system design strategies for CO2 refrigerants in a supermarket environment.
We see A2Ls as a growing area of opportunity across residential and commercial cooling and refrigeration applications. In 2024, the launches of Copeland’s A2L-optimized heat pump and variable-speed compressors will help the HVAC&R industry accelerate the transition to A2L refrigerants.
Overall, Copeland will continue to serve as an industry steward by helping Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and stakeholders prepare for new regulations — both through the introduction of new technologies and by helping to educate the industry and the consumer.
RI: With the global shift towards natural refrigerants, what are the biggest challenges Copeland anticipates in the market, and how do you plan to address them?
RBS: Between 2025 and 2027, most currently manufactured residential air conditioning and heat pump systems will have to transition to lower-GWP refrigerants from a regulatory standpoint, across the US and Europe. A multitude of other HVAC&R equipment will also be impacted soon after, culminating in some complete fluorinated refrigerant (f-gas) bans for specific products in the EU as of 2032.
One of the challenges is that different regions of the world are adopting their own approaches to lower-GWP refrigerants i.e., regional offerings will be based on local regulations and refrigerant preferences. That said, Copeland offers a breadth and depth of solutions designed to address new (and future) regulatory standards – and will continue to do so as the regulatory landscape evolves across all regions of the world.
RI: Can you discuss Copeland's sustainability goals and how these align with your products and services?
RBS: As we only recently became a standalone company, Copeland has not yet publicly announced its corporate sustainability goals. Our vision for the company is to create sustainable solutions that improve lives and protect the planet — today and for future generations. We will do that by supporting the energy transition across heating, cooling, refrigeration, and industrial applications; accelerating the adoption of climate-friendly, lower-GWP refrigerants; maximizing energy efficiencies; and helping safeguard the world’s most critical goods through an efficient and sustainable cold chain.
RI: How will Copeland’s transformation affect your relationships with contractors and customers, particularly in terms of support, training, and product adaptation?
RBS: We expect to deepen our commitment to supporting HVAC&R contractors by helping them navigate the ever-changing energy efficiency and refrigerant regulatory changes. We’re working together with industry experts, partners, and equipment manufacturers to educate HVAC&R professionals on the impending changes, and how Copeland solutions can help them meet these requirements.
Contractors can be confident that we’ll continue to empower them with comprehensive education, training, and certification on the latest refrigerants and regulations, as well as offering regulation-ready, lower GWP solutions.
Last year, we announced a strategic partnership with the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3). These types of partnerships foster effective training and the elevation of skilled careers while creating employment opportunities. We will continue to expand these types of relationships with vocational schools and technical colleges to help promote HVAC&R careers and address the future demand for a skilled HVAC&R workforce.
RI: Why was Blackstone a good private equity sponsor for Copeland?
RBS: Blackstone invested in Copeland because of the company’s strength and significant growth potential. Blackstone’s sponsorship allows Copeland to focus on, and invest in, delivering more climate technology innovations and also tap into the meaningful global network, operational resources, and expertise of the Blackstone platform and its portfolio companies.
Blackstone has a leading portfolio of real estate and private equity investments which provides Copeland with opportunities to engage with them. The Blackstone–Copeland relationship has already enabled meetings between the Commercial HVAC segment of Copeland and Blackstone-owned end-users in the data center, hotel, and multifamily segments, as well as Blackstone-owned Engineering, Design, Specifying, and Consultancy companies that serve the Commercial space. These engagements are providing a forum for Copeland to better understand the end-market requirements and future trends and dynamics.
RI: In light of the recent acquisition, can you share any upcoming changes in leadership or management approach that will drive Copeland forward?
As a newly standalone company, our initial focus is on building up standalone company capabilities. I joined Copeland in May last year. Subsequently, we added Sean Lannon as our CFO in August and Stuart Dalgleish more recently joined Copeland as our Chief Human Resources Officer.
We have also reorganized internally in several ways. We have formed a global electronics and controls business unit to focus on the growth opportunity we see in this area. Separately, we have also formed global vertical teams focused on working collaboratively across our regional teams to align products and go-to-market needs, develop global product road maps, and identify initiatives for global collaboration.
Thanks a lot for the interview!
Copeland will hold a press conference featuring remarks by CEO Ross B. Shuster at 2024 AHR Expo on Tuesday, January 23, at 8 a.m. CST in the Expo Media Center.