USA: Less than three years since its foundation, a “natural” refrigerants body targeting the US supermarket industry has seen its membership grow to 14,000.
The North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC), a California-based environmental non-profit organisation formed in September 2015, announced today that its end-user membership now encompasses nearly 14,000 supermarkets.
“The growth of this organisation has been amazing,” said Keilly Witman, owner of KW Refrigerant Management Strategy and former head of the EPA’s GreenChill Partnership. “Supermarket end-users are excited, because the NASRC gets things done. After years of all talk and no action about the hurdles that stand in the way of natural refrigerants in this industry, we finally have an organisation that flips it around – it’s all about action.”
Most of the NASRC’s efforts focus on overcoming hurdles in three areas: service contractors and technicians, cost, and codes and standards.
It enables end-users to be matched with trained, experienced service contractors, ensuring clear communication between end-users and contractors who are working on their first all-natural refrigerant store. It also enables collaboration with traditional service technician training organisations to ensure that technicians have the training they need to successfully install and manage an all-natural store.
The NASRC’s Natural Refrigerants Service Network, for instance, is an online tool that allows refrigeration service contractors to provide information about their natural refrigerant experience, along with the areas where they do business. End-users can join the online network and mine that data by geographic location and the natural refrigerant they are looking to use.
Overcoming cost constraints
The NASRC’s Return on Investment Progress Group is working to overcome the causes that tend to cause natural refrigerants to cost more than traditional centralised DX systems.
“There are big cost hurdles, like economies of scale, and there are smaller cost hurdles, like the lack of distributors that carry refrigerant-grade CO2,” said Mike Ellinger of Whole Foods Market. “The distributor problem sounds like its a small thing, but it costs money, and those costs build up over time, if you don’t have a solution for it.”
In response, the NASRC has begun cooperating with HARDI, the trade association for HVACR distributors, to bring traditional distributors into the natural refrigerant supply chain. According to NASRC executive, director Danielle Wright, the NASRC and HARDI will work to find a distributor in any area of the country where an end user wants to open a natural refrigerant store.
According to Wright, the codes and standards hurdle may be the toughest nut to crack. “The organisations that write standards for supermarket refrigeration may not be aware of how urgent it is to get standards in place.” She cites the fact that California plans to require supermarkets to use refrigerants with a GWP less than 150 in just a few years.
“We are eager to work with ASHRAE and UL and discuss how to get these standards done, but they have few people on their committees who come from the refrigeration world, much less from the natural refrigerant world.”
“Is it any wonder that supermarket end-users are flocking to this organisation,” observed Keilly Witman, “given its track record in under three years of going to bat for supermarkets?”
“We don’t really have to recruit supermarket end-users,” added Wright. “They come to us, because they’ve heard about the progress we’ve already made in all of the areas that have prevented them from moving forward with naturals in the past.”