A new report has highlighted the challenges facing the European retail industry as it moves from damaging HFCs to natural refrigerants.
The study from the University of Birmingham was commissioned by Emerson to coincide with the one year anniversary of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which set a global phase-down schedule for HFCs.
The retail sector is key to the transition away from HFCs, as an average supermarket refrigeration system can leak up to 25 per cent of its refrigerant charge annually, resulting in approximately 1,556 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions — producing the same environmental impact as the annual energy used by 165 homes.
However, the report authored by Professor Toby Peters, highlights industry analysis that indicates the European retail sector has already fallen behind schedule in phasing out HFCs and replacing them with natural refrigerants. As a result, the report raises concerns that growing environmental and societal pressure, coupled with increasingly stringent regulations, must not drive retailers to focus on solutions which eliminate HFCs but fail to maximise the wider energy efficiency, operational and cost benefits available from industry leading refrigeration technologies.
Professor Peters said: “The original Montreal Protocol was a momentous moment for the planet and our environment. It is one of the few occasions where we can point to a single collective global decision and identify the benefits it brought about. However, as we phased out CFCs we introduced HFCs, and in so doing replaced an imminent environmental disaster with a long term climate crisis. As we respond to the Kigali amendment and introduce alternatives to HFCs, there is a collective responsibility to ensure the best possible long term solution is adopted, which not only addresses refrigerants, but maximises overall energy efficiency.
“The report released today highlights the need for the refrigeration industry, and retailers in particular, to consider the holistic, long term impact of their technology choices. The phase out of HFCs provide a unique opportunity to look beyond the choice of refrigerant, and to fundamentally rethink store and system architectures to ensure that they maximise environmental and operational benefits. Refrigeration systems introduced today could still be operating in 15 years’ time and it’s imperative that we grasp the once in a generation chance to deliver genuinely clean cold. Given the size of heating and cooling demands within our society, this is essential as we transition to sustainable energy.”
Eric Winandy, Director of Integrated Solutions, Emerson Commercial and Residential Solutions, said: “The aggressive phase-down schedule of HFCs presents both a challenge and an opportunity for the retail industry. Although there is certainly pressure for retailers to act quickly, we must be careful not to rush into choosing new refrigeration systems which eliminate HFCs, but miss the opportunity to maximise energy efficiency and other long term environmental benefits. After all, improved energy efficiency equates to tangible cost savings and improved profitability, so making the right environmental choice can also deliver multi-million Euro savings for retailers across Europe.”
Retail Refrigeration: Making the Transition to Clean Cold, examines what the move to natural refrigerants means for retailers and offers recommendations for the path forward.
Additional information on natural refrigerants can be found on the Emerson website.