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Retailers heading for refrigerant “shock”

UK: Green group EIA has added its voice to warnings that some retailers are heading for a major financial shock when drastic cuts in supplies of HFC refrigerants kick in.

Announcing the publication of its latest Chilling Facts report into European retailers and their adoption of low GWP refrigeration technology, the EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) warns  that supplies of HFCs will be slashed by about 48% in real terms next year. While the move to “natural” refrigerants continues, the EIA predicts drastic price hikes and supply shortages for those retailers yet to adopt climate-friendly alternatives.

For the latest report, Chilling Facts VII, 22 retailers submitted data for the 2015 calendar year from supermarkets across 37 countries.

Evaluating preparedness for the F-gas regulation and progress in moving away from HFCs, the report names eight retailers as Green Cooling Leaders – Albert Heijn, Aldi Süd, Carrefour, Kaufland, Metro Cash & Carry, Migros, Tesco and Waitrose.

In the middle of the pack are Marks and Spencer, Jerónimo Martins, Real, Rewe Germany and Sonae, while trailing at the rear are Aldi Nord, Delhaize Belgium, Spanish retailer Dia, Auchan Portugal and Irish retailer Musgrave.

In the case of Germany’s Aldi Nord, the EIA criticises a lack of investment in HFC-free technology for a company that has almost 5,000 stores across Europe. The EIA says the retailer has just five stores using CO2 cascade systems in Germany and 20 using CO2 chilled freezers in Spain.

“European retailers stand out as global leaders in the adoption of HFC-free commercial refrigeration but, despite well-established and efficient HFC-free alternatives, the uptake across Europe is far short of the pace needed to meet the EU’s fast-acting HFC phase-down,” commented Clare Perry, the head of the EIA’s climate campaign.

The report maintains that in order to meet the HFC phase-down schedule in 2015 there should have been approximately 9,500 medium temperature and 9,000 low-temperature, low-GWP systems installed. Industry estimates that in 2016 there were around 8,700 transcritical CO2 refrigeration systems in Europe.

The report insists that the pace at which retailers divest themselves of HFCs “needs to be increased to avoid the disruption associated with imminent supply cuts and price hikes”.

“In addition, there’s the very real concern that HFC shortages will not only result in soaring refrigerant bills but that ongoing heavy demand from retailers may actually drive illegal trade in HFCs, something we witnessed when HCFCs were banned,” said Clare Perry.


Leakage rates continue to cause concern. While industry leaders Albert Heijn, Mega Image, Migros and Waitrose are now reported to be achieving leakage rates of about 5-7%, the EIA says that many retailers were unable to provide data on leakage rates, despite the fact it is mandatory for servicing log books to be kept under the F-gas regulation.

Retailers who have consistently reported to the Chilling Fact survey show direct emissions dropping on average by 11% between 2013 and 2015. In the case of Jerónimo Martins, Metro Cash & Carry and Waitrose, direct emissions dropped by more than 20%.

The report also claims that despite leakage prevention measures almost half of the total climate impact of HFC-based refrigeration systems comes from leaks. In 2009, when the first Chilling Facts was published direct emissions were often found to be higher than indirect emissions. Seven years on the EIA reports that average direct emissions remain almost equal to indirect emissions.

Chilling Facts VII’s recommendations include urging retailers to implement HFC-free refrigeration in all new stores and refits, and to fit doors on all chiller and freezer units.

The report also urges governments to financially support smaller end-users to transition away from HFCs and provide incentives for doors on fridges.

The latest Chilling Facts VII can be downloaded here.

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