The study of large food retailers in Germany, France, Denmark, Norway and the UK found 65% of respondents had begun to implement natural refrigerant technology in their stores and a quarter of them are preparing to adapt refrigeration strategy as soon as F-gas agreement becomes official. Also, while scepticism exists over the viability of hydrocarbons in large systems, CO2 transcritical stores across Europe have doubled in two years. Altogether, according to Shecco figures, the number of supermarkets running on CO2 in Europe had reached 2,885 in 2013.
The retailers are said to have revealed that refrigeration, as the single largest contributor to a store’s energy bill, is seen as the No 1 priority for investment and the report showed that German retailers are most motivated to reduce their carbon footprint.
The market research received responses from 50 food retailers across Europe, with 34 of them providing what were considered by the study compilers to be valid results. The study was developed by Carrier, a large producer of CO2 refrigeration equipment, in partnership with market development company Shecco, the firm behind the natural refrigerant websites R744.com and hydrocarbons21.com. It seeks to uncover the key drivers for and against the adoption of natural refrigerants and the impact of legislation on such developments across Europe.
The report maintains that the trend is being driven by industrywide sustainability policies that are outpacing EU legislation.
“This research reflects the shift we’ve observed across the industry over the past two years,” said Thierry Jomard, president, Carrier Commercial Refrigeration, Europe. “What we’re seeing today is an intersection point between legislation and increased acceptance of how natural refrigerant technologies can contribute to the overarching goals of carbon footprint reduction and increased energy efficiency.”
But, as the report observes, while some believe the phase-out of high GWP HFCs in 2022 under the F-gas regulation will be the tipping point for mainstream adoption of natural refrigeration solutions, others believe the combination of public pressure from environmentally aware consumers and the commercial imperative to reduce energy costs have been, and will continue to be, the real catalysts for industrywide change.
In the survey, 26% of respondents said they would be adapting their refrigeration strategy as soon as the F-gas agreement becomes official, with just 9% indicating they would wait until the F-gas restrictions in 2022 get closer before addressing their refrigeration strategy.
According to the report, legislation is a key factor as evidenced by Denmark where taxes on HFCs have been introduced and in in Norway and Switzerland, where similar initiatives can be seen in, sometimes in combination with incentives for research and training.
Other countries have opted for government-funded financial incentives for end users. Germany, for example, has provided research and development support for pilot projects for halogen-free substances and direct financial incentives for using natural refrigerants in commercial refrigeration.
The report acknowledges that pressure from environmental groups has contributed to this move in the UK.
While safety concerns are still a major barrier to implementation of CO2 for some, the report suggests that respondents now place natural refrigerants on a par with HFC systems in terms of both reliability and safety. Many users also insist that natural refrigerants now outperform traditional HFC systems in terms of efficiency and performance. The price differential in terms of system costs is also said to be narrowing.
A copy of the Natural Refrigerants in Europe report can be downloaded here.