R744.com offers a sneak preview of shecco Deputy Managing Director Nina Masson’s presentation on market trends at this year’s ATMOsphere Asia, which takes place on 9-10 February in Tokyo. The presentation will draw exclusive findings from shecco’s upcoming ‘GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in Japan – State of the Industry 2016’, which assesses the Japanese market for natural refrigerant-based solutions.
This preview centres on Japan’s commercial refrigeration industry, one of the country’s most exciting sectors. This application is in flux across the globe, with all continents experiencing greater uptake of natural refrigerant-based solutions – and CO2 transcritical taking the top-spot as system of choice. Japan is no different and currently boasts the second-highest number of stores, with over 1,500.
CVS taking to CO2 systems but limitations prohibiting growth in larger stores
In little over three years, the number of CO2 transcritical installations in Japan has jumped from 190 in 2013 to 1,545 in 2016. This dramatic increase has been marked by a whirl of activity that has seen key end-users such as Lawson – which runs over 12,000 CVS – commit their future to CO2. These smaller stores are employing innovative and efficient systems with a cooling capacity of roughly 20kW to refrigerate their showcases. Lawson notes that these systems have helped to reduce energy usage by an average of 21% per CVS compared to the traditional HFC systems they previously employed.
While uptake has soared for smaller formats, the same cannot be said for larger supermarkets. Of the 20,015 supermarkets in Japan, just 72 are currently using CO2 refrigeration systems – and these were only introduced in 2015 and 2016. While supermarkets in Europe and North America can have CO2 systems that operate upwards of 200kW, Japan’s ‘High Pressure Gas Safety Act’ makes the use of similar equipment difficult due to the high-pressure properties of CO2. Therefore, to use CO2 systems, supermarkets would have to use multiple smaller systems to gain the desired cooling capacity. As such, uptake is minimal, even though AEON – one of the supermarkets employing these systems in large numbers – reports energy savings of 23%.
Government subsidies key to unlocking CO2’s market potential
Perhaps the biggest influence upon the surge in adoption of CO2 technology is a subsidy programme from the Japanese Ministry of Environment (MOE), which provides funds to help spread the use of natural refrigerant-based technology. Motoyuki Kumakura, director of the Office of Fluorocarbons Control Policy at the MOE, told ATMOsphere Asia 2015:
“Technology using natural refrigerants has been improved in efficiency and safety, but not yet spread widely. To address this situation, the Ministry of Environment financially supports installations of high-efficiency equipment with natural refrigerants.”
To help widen the use of natural refrigerant technology, the MOE provides subsidies that cover one third of the cost of installing energy-efficient display cases that utilise natural refrigerants in the food retail sector. The following amounts have been allocated in the last three years:
2014 – ¥5 billion Yen (€39 million)
2015 – ¥6.3 billion Yen (€49 million)
2016(planned) – ¥8.5 billion Yen (€66.3 million)
The impact this has had is obvious: 557 installations received help in 2015 (in addition to 409 in 2014), and 24 companies were aided in 2015 (on top of 23 in 2014). With the number of stores using CO2 refrigeration in Japan hovering at just over 1,500, the funding has clearly been used by the vast majority of installations since 2014.