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Retailers seek help on low GWP refrigeration

UK: The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has called for targeted financial support for the installation of climate-friendly refrigeration to aid its “critical role” in achieving the UK’s net zero target.

The BRC, which represents over 170 major retailers, has called for support for the upgrade of refrigeration systems to utilise low GWP refrigerants in its recently published Climate Action Roadmap

The comprehensive document, published last month, says of the pressure to adopt lower GWP refrigerants: “It must be recognised that it can be costly for retailers to transition completely and rapidly, especially when refrigeration systems must be replaced and decommissioned.” 

It points out that for smaller retailers, especially, “replacing cold storage assets that still have useful lifespans could be prohibitively expensive”. 

“Targeted financial support, beyond tax benefits for energy efficient refrigeration, could help ease this burden for retailers,” it says. 

The BRC also warns that without forward-looking guidance, retailers may be tempted to phase down to the next-lowest GWP refrigerant substitution allowed by legislation. “This is not inherently bad, but it may lead to repeated (expensive) replacements of refrigerants or refrigeration systems as retailers chase the legislative targets,” it says. 

“Government guidance on a more comprehensive refrigeration transition that prevents retailers from chasing moving targets in the refrigerant global warming potential phase down would be extremely beneficial.”

The retail industry recognises that, with value chain emissions of approximately 215MtCO2e per year, it has a key part to play in tackling climate change. The Climate Action Roadmap is the BRC’s decarbonisation plan developed in partnership with twenty leading retailers. It is designed to guide British retail along the steps necessary to achieve a Net Zero UK, ahead of the Government’s 2050 target. 

The report’s recommendations in the route to decarbonisation for refrigeration also highlights the  major energy savings that can be made from installation of efficient support technologies. For instance, adding transparent doors to open display systems typically results in 20-50% energy savings, it says, and simple changes like LED canopy lights typically result in 5-10% energy savings. Regular maintenance is also pinpointed as another “crucial and inexpensive” way to ensure energy performance, along with cleaning and commissioning to allow for better temperature management and more precise control over power draw. Properly stocking displays, turning off lights during off hours and covering units during off hours, are also highlighted as good energy-saving habits.  

Described as “a key action”, the BRC urges the transition to low or zero GWP refrigerants. It says that food retailers should use the regulatory HFC phase-down as an opportunity to review their refrigeration strategically. “Instead of opting for the next available refrigerant that meets the regulation, opportunities for utilising natural and zero global warming refrigerants should be explored.”

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