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Sainsbury’s report backs action on fridge doors

UK: A new report backed by Sainsbury’s calls on the UK government to enforce a number of  energy-saving refrigeration measures on the supermarket sector, including making doors on cabinets mandatory.

The report from Imperial College London looks at the likely impact of global warming on food refrigeration systems following the UK’s hottest summer on record in 2018. It is one of the results of Sainsbury’s partnership with Imperial College London established in 2010 to research ways of reducing the carbon footprint from retail activities. Sainsbury’s sees the collaboration with Imperial College as key to achieving its net zero energy targets by 2040.

Impact of a Warming Climate on UK Food Retail Refrigeration Systems: Recommendations for Industry seeks to understand the challenges facing cold-chain food supply, with a focus on UK supermarket retailers, though the authors see the recommendations applying to the wider UK refrigeration industry.

In addition to making doors on cabinets compulsory, the report also pushes for making parallel compression a legal requirement for new systems, legislating on maintenance of cabinets and cold room curtains, and encouraging and subsidising refrigeration apprenticeships.

The report’s authors recorded the increased energy consumption in the summer of 2018 across 30 sample stores in the UK, compared to a 2016/17 baseline. The results, when extrapolated to a 600-store estate, found that, in July alone, with average temperatures elevated by 2.67ºC relative to 2016/17, energy consumption rose by 5.1%-11.2%. This translated into additional carbon emissions of 616-1,353tCO2e,

Interestingly, no correlation was found between system age and the energy penalty, implying site-specific factors tend to drive the response to elevated temperatures. 

Alarm data during July 2018 revealed that a threshold temperature was crossed after which systems began struggling estate-wide. According to the authors, this indicates that systems were pushed beyond their designed capabilities and underlines the importance of investigating new system-design innovations. 

As well as putting forward short and long-term strategies to ensure the continued sustainability of systems in a warming climate, it also seeks government involvement with a number of recommended policy actions. 

The report maintains that, with reported energy reductions of 40%, the addition of cabinet doors warrants government action, whether through making doors a legal requirement or by incentivising technological innovation to achieve equivalent energy-saving outcomes. 

The full report can be accessed here.

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