New report from EIA shows the use of natural refrigerants in supermarkets is on the up, and it’s not all about CO2

By Robert Davidson, Oct 16, 2014, 10:51 4 minute reading

The Environmental Investigation Agency’s (EIA) new report, The Chilling Facts VI, proclaims that the adoption of climate-friendly refrigeration by supermarkets is growing faster and dispersing further than ever before. They expect this trend to continue as new regulations have been put in place to curb the use of HFCs. 2014’s Green Cooling Leaders include newcomers Carrefour and South African retailers Makro and Woolworths, whilst those keeping the title from last year are Coop Schwe

The newest edition of The Chilling Facts has been released by EIA and spells good news for the natural refrigerant market. The report reveals that in the past two years, the number of stores in the UK and Europe using natural refrigerants has risen from 730 to 1,889 among surveyed retailers. Fionnuala Walravens, lead author of The Chilling Facts VI, summarised that: “In the relatively short time since The Chilling Facts reports began, we’ve been delighted to see so many leading retailers take some gigantic steps towards reducing their use of HFCs and turning to climate-friendly cooling technologies.”
The trends highlighted in Chilling Facts VI emulate those previously identified by market development expert shecco in their publication the “GUIDE 2014 – natural refrigerants, continued growth in Europe,” which reported even more encouraging data for Europe:
  • Over 1793 stores adopting transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems since 2011 (until mid-2013)
  • Over 480,000 installed hydrocarbon plug-in units
  • 285 indirect hydrocarbon refrigeration systems
Hydrocarbons also on the rise 
Chilling Facts VI wasn’t all about the use of CO2; there was equally positive news regarding the use of hydrocarbons in supermarkets. The report notes that:
  • The Co-operative group continues to lead the way for chilled food, rolling-out the use of hydrocarbons to a further 250 stores during 2013. 
  • The energy efficiency of Waitrose’s water-cooled hydrocarbon installations has increased by up to 12% from 2013. Although the rapid roll-out of these systems has slowed with 111 stores using water-cooled hydrocarbon systems, up from 98 reported last year.
  • German retailer Lidl have also made great strides and are now in the final stages of testing a hydrocarbon plug and play unit for chilled food, with a view to a expand this practice across its European estate in 2015. 
  • British retailer Iceland are also trialing hydrocarbons for chilled food in six stores, five of which are using plug and play systems and the sixth, using a chilled water plant running on hydrocarbons to cool the cabinets. 
  • In the Republic of Ireland Musgrave is testing new hydrocarbon chillers.
Lifting the lid on supermarket energy wastage
While the growing use of natural refrigerants is a positive sign, the EIA also used the report to raise awareness that major retailers are missing out on easy ways to lower emissions as well as energy costs.  They especially point out that the lack of fitted doors on displays in supermarkets is an easy fix for retailers. This is a key issue for the EIA who have also launched a video campaign to coincide with their Chilling Facts report to aid the lessening of energy wastage in supermarkets.
Ms. Walravens summarises the misrepresented battle between profit and environmental protection with regards to fitted doors: “Retailer feedback shows that adding doors can result in energy savings of about 33%. Those companies reluctant to make the move claim doors would significantly reduce impulse buying but the evidence from retailers who have introduced doors refutes this - in fact, there’s even testimony that having doors in place reduces shoplifting.”
New F-Gas regulation intimates expiration date for HFCs
The Chilling Facts VI also details the ways that the market will change in the future and advises retailers to stay ahead of the curve. Notably, the report details the impact of the newly revised EU F-Gas Regulation, which will restrict HFC use: reducing its availability by 79% by 2030. In addition to this, they explain that technological advances and improvements in system design will help accelerate the transition, most notably the use of parallel compression technology in transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems in southern Europe.
The portrait painted in The Chilling Facts VI of future natural refrigerant use in supermarkets is an auspicious one, which supermarkets would do well to heed. Ms. Walravens concludes that alongside retailers, governments and organisations should strike while the iron is hot: “The time is now ripe for governments to intervene to ensure the entire supermarket sector follows suit - the issue is just too important and the stakes too high to leave it to voluntary measures.”
About EIA
The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is an independent charity founded in 1984 to fight environmental crime. They have developed innovative and effective investigative methods for defending the environment and seek lasting solutions to the problems they uncover. Their Chilling Facts series of reports started in 2009 as an attempt to urge UK supermarket retailers to use natural refrigerants. However, in the last six years, the reports have evolved and now encompass key European and South African retailers.


By Robert Davidson

Oct 16, 2014, 10:51

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