Small New York-based food retail chain DeCicco’s & Sons earned US$66,668 (€62262) by selling refrigeration carbon credits (RCCs) linked to replacing synthetic refrigeration systems in two stores with natural refrigerant CO2 (R744) systems.
The sale was facilitated through U.S.-based Therm, which combined DeCicco’s credits with those of other supermarkets.
“We are bringing to the market the ability to aggregate multiple stores, so even an owner like DeCicco’s with only ten stores can cost-effectively produce and sell RCCs to premium buyers,” said Fritz Troller, CEO and Co-Founder of Therm, in a presentation at the ATMOsphere America Summit 2023, held June 12–13 in Washington, D.C. The event was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of R744.com.
The CO2 retrofits took place at DeCicco’s Bedford and Eastchester stores, located north of New York City. DeCicco’s also recently upgraded its Harrison location to a transcritical CO2 system that includes adiabatic gas cooling and geothermal precooling, adding 5,000ft2 (465m2) of floor space, according to a presentation given at the summit by John DeCicco Jr., President and CEO of DeCicco’s & Sons.
The 15,000ft2 (1,400m2) Harrison store is in the verification process to determine its associated RCCs. Troller expects the store’s RCCs to sell for roughly US$30,000 (€28,000) in the last quarter of 2023.
As a voluntary U.S. market, the global emissions offset futures (GEO) for carbon credits runs about $1/CO2e metric ton, Troller said, “but the premium in the marketplace are carbon buyers like Amazon and Microsoft willing to pay three or four times the commodity price.”
For the two DeCicco’s stores, Therm sold the RCCs at US$7 (€6.54) a metric ton by bundling the available RCCs “with 13 other projects to make it large enough to be cost-effective,” he said. Emissions produced by the stores were reduced by 99%.
“The methodology and registry allow us the framework to build these carbon credits,” Troller said. Therm contracts with refrigeration system owners that choose the more costly but better environmental option to forgo traditional synthetic refrigerants or replace an existing system.
After listing the site, Therm starts the verification and validation processes. “Third-party verifiers and validators ‒ vetted by the American Carbon Registry (ACR) ‒ check our work to ensure the system is not required in the marketplace and that it’s permanent with no way to reverse it,” he added.
Since the process takes four months, the market can change, and thus “we provide a conservative price range to our clients,” Troller noted. “However, we typically have an indication of prices based on the open interest of big carbon buyers, and we can often pre-sale them.”
The built environment is 30‒40% of the greenhouse gas inventory in the world, and “we want to be the solution” by monetizing the difference between high-GWP and low-GWP options, the latter being natural refrigerants, Troller said.
John Tinsley, Vice President and Co-Founder of Therm presented the RCC setup at the 2022 ATMOsphere American Summit, comparing RCCs to utility credits.
Last year, five Californian supermarkets – part of the Grocery Outlet and Raley’s brands – worked with Therm to raise finances from the sale of refrigerant carbon credits after choosing to install natural refrigerant-based refrigeration systems instead of traditional HFC-based alternatives.
Besides selling RCCs for natural refrigerant system installations, Therm is working on other opportunities to use carbon incentives to fund climate-friendly upgrades.
“In conjunction with our partners at ACR, we will be unveiling a methodology for HVAC in about 90 days,” Troller said. The intent is to use the same carbon credit incentive to “help people make the right choice to go with ultra-low-GWP HVAC equipment like heat pumps.”
Troller expects the monetary incentive for HVAC carbon credits to range between US$400‒800 (€374‒747) for every 25TR (88.9kW) roof-top unit.
For stores with synthetic refrigeration systems, investing in leak detection equipment and services supports climate initiatives. Troller reports working to find leak detection opportunities for retailers to get “paid an annuity for proven reductions,” with an expected annual payment of US$1,300‒2,600 (€1,214‒2,428) per participating store.
“We have a project in Ohio for leak detection that won’t be completed until the end of September, but we already have a firm buyer for 65,000 metric tons that will be available on September 30,” Troller added.
Another way to pay for natural refrigeration retrofits is to sell reclaimed synthetic refrigerant. “After pumping down the R404A, or other synthetic refrigerants, we bring it back to the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)-700 standard and sell it into the marketplace,” Troller said, indicating that it could bring in US$9,000‒15,000 (€8,405‒1,408) per retrofitted store.
In May, two-year-old Therm was awarded the 2023 ACR Corporate Excellence Award in recognition of “[Therm’s] work as a frontrunner in facilitating supermarkets’ and grocery stores’ transition to low-GWP refrigerants using carbon market finance,” ACR said in the announcement. “In only a year, Therm has worked with dozens of organizations to reduce more than half a million metric tons of CO2e, issued by ACR as verified carbon credits.”
ACR is a nonprofit enterprise of the Arkansas-based Winrock International.