Since the heat waves of 2018 and 2019 in Europe, Belgian retailer Delhaize, part of the Ahold Delhaize Group, accelerated its installation of CO2 (R744) refrigeration units to realize a 20% reduction of energy consumption in existing buildings and a 40% reduction in well-insulated, new buildings.

That update was provided by David Schalenbourg, Director of Delhaize Technics (Architecture, Construction and Maintenance), Delhaize Division at the November 2022 ATMOsphere (ATMO) Europe Summit in Brussels. ATMO Europe was organized by ATMOsphere, publisher of,

In his presentation “Every Tonne Counts…” he described the company’s efforts to drive down carbon emissions through installing new CO2 cooling units and sourcing green energy.

In Belgium and Luxembourg, Ahold Delhaize operates or affiliates with 900 stores. Of the 140 corporate stores, 96 operate using transcritical CO2 refrigeration. Of the affiliated stores, 160 of the 760 stores (with independent owners) refrigerate with transcritical CO2 systems. The company is rolling out CO2 refrigeration at Delhaize stores in Belgium and Luxembourg stores at “the pace of remodelings,” he said.

Overall, Ahold Delhaize, with 150 years of experience in food retail, operates over 6,500 stores in 11 countries. Stores range from flagship stores occupying more than 2,000m2 (21,528ft2) to small affiliated 200m2 (2,153ft2) shop-and-go stores.

Delhaize has been working for more than 20 years on its carbon emissions and seeking to lower the company’s carbon footprint, and reports being carbon neutral today. “When we look at the energy consumption for an average supermarket, half of the consumption goes to cooling,” Schalenbourg said. He added that Delhaize “goes CO2 all the way” for cooling in its stores and warehouses. In its offices, Delhaize uses CO2 heat pumps.

“It is really looking for and finding solutions that can be applied everywhere,” said Schalenbourg. So instead of following different technology tracks, Delhaize installs CO2 refrigerant technology. Schalenbourg reports that the company looks at how to set the parameters in CO2 refrigeration for the most efficient performance.

During the European heat waves of 2021, Delhaize saw reduced refrigeration performance, system shutdowns and food loss. To rectify the issues, Delhaize installed evaporating cooling systems called the chillBooster from Italian component manufacturer Carel to improve the performance of the transcritical CO2 systems in more than 100 corporate stores.

Also in the summer of 2021, Delhaize opened a new 2,500m2 (26,910ft2) store in the Anderlecht municipality of Brussels. The store uses transcritical CO2 refrigeration and other energy-saving measures to make it 40–45% more energy efficient than a previous store in the area.

Schalenbourg also reported that a Delhaize warehouse (DC B4) saw a 14% energy consumption reduction with the installation of a new transcritical CO2 system over a standard ammonia/CO2 installation.

The downside of going to CO2 installations is the high pressure, said Schalenbourg. “When there is a leak, it is bigger.”

Monitoring, maintenance and incident management provide business continuity and quality, he said. For example, Delhaize uses a shop controller and a building management system to continually monitor installations for remote interventions. He sees maintenance, including preventative and predictive maintenance, as a necessary proactive approach. “If you don’t have the contractors to maintain it, it is not worth anything,” said Schalenbourg.

Watching supply-side, downstream emissions

Schalenbourg said Delhaize recognizes its facilities and vehicles emissions (scope 1) and its indirect emissions (scope 2) from purchased energy only represent 2% of its total emissions. The remaining 98% come from its supply-side or downstream affiliated network where it sells retail goods. As a company, it has “the important task of seeing where we source, which products we source, and how these suppliers are managing their scope 1 and 2,” he said.

Delhaize seeks to be an ambassador to its network of independent store owners and “convince them to go to natural refrigerants and sustainable solutions to lower their carbon footprint.” In Belgium, Delhaize has seen “the reverse side of not aiming for carbon neutrality with severe heat waves and flooding.” In 2021, Delhaize had to close 40 stores in Belgium due to flooding.

Delhaize also seeks to integrate systems with natural refrigerant installations to build climate-resistant technology to improve performance and reduce food waste. “Structural actions” have cut energy consumption by about 60%, according to Schalenbourg. These actions include the use of chill boosters and dry coolers and the replacement of outdated installations. 

Other technology measures employed to reduce emissions and energy consumption include e-powered harmonizers, adiabatic coolers and recycled car battery packs for emergency energy use.

In 2020, Ahold Delhaize moved into its new carbon-neutral headquarters.

“When we look at the energy consumption for an average supermarket, half of the consumption goes to cooling. It is really looking for and finding solutions that can be applied everywhere.”

David Schalenbourg, Director of Delhaize Technics, Delhaize Division