The study of predominantly large food retailers in Germany, France, Denmark, Norway and the UK found 65% of all respondents had already begun to implement natural refrigerant technology. This change, driven by a combination of market, policy and technology drivers, has strengthened the position of many retailers vis-à-vis the newly revised F-gas agreement. 

Pro-natural refrigerant legislation and increased acceptance natural refrigerant technologies can contribute toward the overarching goals of carbon footprint reduction and increased energy efficiency,” says Thierry Jomard, President, Carrier Commercial Refrigeration, Europe.

Retailers eager to show environmental leadership and reduce carbon footprint 

According to the Carrier/shecco study, one of the key drivers behind the switch to natural refrigerants is retailers’ growing awareness of the link between carbon footprint reduction and business success. Survey respondents across all territories in the study rated carbon footprint reduction as “important”.  

CO2 is now standard option for commercial refrigeration 

Among the natural refrigerant options favoured by the study’s food retailers, is CO2, which is emerging as the standard option for centralised systems. Eighty-three percent of respondents already using natural refrigerants had chosen CO2 for their centralised system. 

With regards to using natural but flammable refrigerants, retailers were skeptical about the early adoption of HC systems in systems with a refrigerant charge greater than 150 grams, as it would shift more liability and risk potential to the food retailers.  

Natural refrigerant systems safe, reliable and energy efficient 

More than 40% of the average store’s total energy consumption is attributable to refrigeration. Taking this into consideration, the study’s respondents were asked to rank the importance of environmental features to increase energy efficiency in stores. The use of energy-efficient and low-Global Warming Potential refrigerants was rated as by far the most important environmental feature to increase a store’s energy efficiency – with score of 4.33 out of 5.  

Surveyed retailers also agreed natural refrigerants now outperform traditional hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) systems in terms of efficiency and performance, suggesting respondents believe the technology makes solid business sense regardless of any incentives.  

Natural refrigerants deliver ROI on par with HFCs  

For the study’s food retailers, who had an average technology investment cycle of 14 years, in terms of return on investment and life-cycle costs, natural refrigerants are considered to have achieved parity with HFCs.  

What is more, although initial capital cost and investment remain higher than traditional HFC solutions, the data suggests a relatively small gap which is likely to be bridged as development gains pace.  

Investment in CO2 systems has to make financial sense, and the price of CO2 installation is becoming more accessible. There is still work to be done, but there is strong evidence that the difference in initial investment cost between CO2 transcritical and traditional systems is coming down,” summarises Nina Masson, Deputy Managing Director, shecco 

Servicing and maintenance infrastructure however, require further investment.  

What does the future hold for natural refrigerants? 

A key challenge for the future will be to carry the momentum forward to a point where the technology is within reach of smaller convenience stores and food retailers in southern Europe. The signs are encouraging that this second tipping point may not be far away, with first trials already underway. 

We welcome the strong push by the European Union to use natural refrigerants for refrigeration. The technology for food retail applications already exists to enable a smooth transition to non-HFC refrigeration well before 2022,” adds Christoph Brouwers Director Mechanical Systems Programs, Carrier Commercial Refrigeration, Europe 

The switch to natural refrigerants is also proving the catalyst for more holistic thinking about combining heating and cooling, using integrated system solutions to optimise overall energy management. This trend has been particularly pronounced in Scandinavia, where food retailers now attach equal importance to overall energy management systems and refrigeration when it comes to prioritising investments to improve the energy efficiency of their store. 

About Carrier 

Founded by the inventor of modern air conditioning, Carrier is the world’s leader in high-technology heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration solutions and part of UTC Building & Industrial Systems, a unit of United Technologies Corp., a leading provider to the aerospace and building systems industries worldwide. 

Carrier Commercial Refrigeration is a major supplier of high-efficiency turnkey refrigeration systems and services in the food retail industry. Carrier’s innovative CO2OLtec® system, installed in over 980 stores in Europe, uses natural refrigerant CO2 for both low and medium temperature refrigeration and provides environmentally sustainable solution for all retail store formats. 

About shecco 

For more than a decade market development expert shecco has been active in helping bring climate friendly technologies faster to market. shecco supports over 100+ partners worldwide in the HVAC&R sector, where the focus is on sustainable refrigeration, heating & cooling technologies using natural refrigerants. shecco offers a variety of services, ranging from publishing, to events and business development services.