In an effort to influence the Serbian HVAC&R market, Delhaize Serbia has been converting its supermarkets to CO2 technology since November 2018, becoming the first retailer in the country to do so, according to Duško Pantović, Technical Installation Specialist at Delhaize Serbia. 

“Our aim is to improve our cooling and to set the standard that shows other competitors on the Serbian market which path they should follow,” Pantović said during an end users panel discussion at ATMOsphere Europe in Warsaw, Poland on October 17. 

Since last year, Delhaize Serbia has converted five existing stores to CO2, and added three new CO2 supermarkets as well. The plan is to eventually convert all of the retailer’s approximately 300 supermarkets to CO2. “We think that in the first two to three years, we can refurbish 10-15 stores a year maximum,” Pantović said. “After that, I hope we will do much more. When we set the standard, our plan is [converting] 30 or 40 shops per year to transcritical CO2.” 

However, not all Delhaize Serbia’s stores are suitable for CO2; the retailer also has around 150 smaller convenience stores under the Shop & Go brand. The plan is to use air-cooled, self-contained R290 cabinets for these stores, Pantović stated. 

Delhaize Serbia stopped using R404 in all new installations in 2015. For some stores, R448 and R449 have been used instead, but, he noted, “This is only a transition period, and now we are ready to implement this new technology. The permanent solution is CO2.”

Plenty of challenges

The initial cost for a CO2 system in Serbia is 35-40% higher than a traditional system, according to Pantović, who shared various challenges met by Delhaize in its quest to transform commercial refrigeration in Serbia. The country has no legislation requiring, or encouraging, retailers to use natural refrigerants. “We do not have any funds; we do not have any penalties; we just have good will and our responsibilities,” Pantović said.

Further challenges for natural refrigerant pioneers in Serbia include a lack of knowledge and spare parts for fast delivery – the nearest suppliers are in Hungary and Austria. “Another issue is that the price for R404 is equal to the price of CO2,” according to Pantović.

Overcoming these challenges required hard work and extensive calculations to motivate the change to natural refrigerants – taking into account maintenance costs and energy savings too. By changing the refrigerated cabinets for the refurbished stores, energy consumption has gone from 45% of the total energy consumed, down to 29%, according to Pantović.

“Our aim is to improve our cooling and to set the standard that shows other competitors on the Serbian market which path they should follow,”

Duško Pantović, Delhaize Serbia

Still, the cost is a great challenge. “When we calculate everything, we get a return on investment of almost seven years,” said Pantović. “This is too high, but we were successful in defending our first seven or eight shops.”

Despite these challenges, Pantović and his colleagues are committed to converting to natural refrigerants. “We are a company with corporate responsibility and social responsibility as well,” he said. “We will follow the development of the entire Delhaize company and improve our refrigeration technology.”

Other participants in the ATMOsphere Europe end user panel included Tadeusz Plewa from Makro Poland, Vincent Grass from Nestlé, and Fabio Roncadin from Bofrost.

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