Bluu Unit is building an alliance of natural refrigerant contractors in Germany, like the heat pump technician in this photo.
Photo credit: Virrage Images for Shutterstock.

Bluu Unit Is Building an Alliance of Natural Refrigerant Contractors in Germany Backed by Private Equity

CEO Peter Hettich spoke with NaturalRefrigerants.com about the new organization and its objectives.

As momentum gathered last year for the European Union’s revised F-gas Regulation, one of the loudest voices of dissent in Germany came from the German Association of Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Contractors (Verband Deutscher Kälte-Klima-Fachbetriebe, VDKF). The Bonn-based trade association counts more than 1,000 HVAC&R contractors as members, and throughout 2023 it raised the alarm, saying the revised regulation’s phase out of HFCs would hurt contractors, damage the economy and even keep the bloc from reaching its climate goals. 

The revised F-gas Regulation became law in March, and with it the clock began ticking on the use of HFCs in heating and cooling equipment.

While the VDKF bemoaned the news, Bluu Unit celebrated it. Bluu Unit is an alliance of German HVAC&R contractors that promotes the use of natural refrigerants. It’s backed by private equity firm Triton Partners and led by CEO Peter Hettich. In a recent interview with ATMOsphere Founder and CEO Marc Chasserot – ATMOsphere is the publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com – Hettich laid out his goal for the organization.

“We want to be Germany’s leading provider of refrigeration and climatization solutions based on natural refrigerants and sustainable services,” Hettich told NaturalRefrigerants.com.

Hettich detailed his plans to reach that goal in a conversation with Chasserot, which took place on the sidelines of the 2024 B2B networking conference Digisustain, held April 29–May 1 in Frankfurt.

Big ambition, big backer

The seed for Bluu Unit was planted in July 2022 when Triton acquired a majority stake in the Kälte Eckert Group, an air-conditioning and refrigeration contractor in Markgröningen, Baden-Württemberg. Triton is active in the business services, industrial tech and healthcare sectors, and the PE firm says it has raised more than €18 billion ($19.5 billion) across three funds since its founding in 1997.

Triton then acquired five more German HVAC&R contractors with the aim of creating “a national market leader for sustainable refrigeration technology.” That market leader became Bluu Unit, which launched this past January at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“We currently have 10 companies in this alliance, and we’re seeing huge interest [from others],” said Hettich. “Our vision has proven very attractive.”

Part of the appeal of that vision has to do with Bluu Unit’s focus on fostering business development among its member companies.

Building businesses

Bluu Unit tells prospective members – it specifies that it’s looking for medium-sized companies – that it has a “sustainable concept for successful growth based on partnership-based corporate development.” In plain terms, Hettich said the objective of the alliance is to help members build their businesses and grow their skill in working with natural refrigerants through knowledge sharing.

Hettich said Bluu Unit has established training academies for alliance members that offer the opportunity to learn about new systems and technologies. Alliance members also work together on joint projects, and companies can loan out employees to fellow member companies for lengthy projects to truly cement their knowledge of a new system or refrigerant.

Related reading: European Commission Publishes Proposed Natural Refrigerant, F-gas Training Certificate Regulation

“There is support for planning activities, writing tenders and even in digitization,” said Hettich. “The goal is to give members access to the full knowledge of the alliance to then provide the highest customer value in a sustainable manner.”

Delivering customer value is incredibly important to Hettich. He noted that, despite the importance of educating contractors in the advantages of natural refrigerants and how to use these technologies, success comes from “working your way back from the customers.”

“I see Bluu Unit as more of an enabler, one that helps these companies transform and grow,” Hettich said. “Each of our members has long-lasting and powerful relationships with their customers. We want to preserve these and use them as the foundation to drive this [refrigerant] transformation.”

“We want to be Germany’s leading provider of refrigeration and climatization solutions based on natural refrigerants and sustainable services.”

Peter Hettich, CEO of Bluu Unit

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