Obstacles to energy efficient HVAC&R solutions in the food retail sector

A new research paper from the SuperSmart project presents figures related to commercial refrigeration and the results of a survey aimed at identifying obstacles to the adoption of energy-efficient HVAC&R solutions in the food retail sector.

An article1 published in the February issue of the International Journal of Refrigeration discusses the SuperSmart Project, in which the IIR is involved. The project began in 2016 and will end in January 2019. It aims to achieve both decisive environmental benefits through the quick implementation of efficient heating and cooling solutions, as well as significant economic benefits through reduced energy use in the supermarket sector across Europe.

The article contains interesting figures from different studies, such as the annual electricity consumption of supermarkets, which is estimated at 3-4% of electricity production in industrialized countries. Refrigeration itself accounts for 30-60% of the supermarket energy bill: “the energy intensity may range up to 700 kWh.m-2 for a hypermarket and up to 2,000 kWh.m-2 for a convenience store”.

CO2 transcritical booster systems are widespread in Europe, with 5,500 transcritical units all over the continent. CO2 systems allow the ejector to recover part of the expansion losses and convert them into pre-compressing work. Those systems could improve system efficiency by up to 20%.

The results of the survey show that the level of experience in energy efficiency and low carbon technologies is generally high, since 70% of the respondents apply heat recovery and 60% use renewable energy sources. Carbon dioxide is the most common natural refrigerant, followed by hydrocarbons.

The article also reports on a survey of food retail sector stakeholders. The survey aimed to identify the different “non-technological” barriers encountered by energy-efficient solutions in the food retail stores’ heating and cooling systems. The barriers identified are:

  • awareness: stakeholders are not aware of the different opportunities and how they can fit their sites;
  • knowledge: the complexity of HVAC&R systems increases, and stakeholders may not fully understand how to integrate more recent innovations on their sites;
  • social: moving from a well-known technology to a new one may raise some concerns, since new technologies may be perceived as risky;
  • organisational: in the case of multiple stakeholders, there may be conflicting interests regarding the choice of new system;
  • legislative: the EU F-gas regulation and the Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD) set the guidelines for the food retail sector in Europe, and their impact on business has to be measured. The strongest barrier under the F-gas Regulation is identified as the lack of qualified personnel for system servicing, especially in South West Europe. The EPBD Directive is considered too complex.

The results of the survey show that the legislative barrier is the most difficult to overcome, together with the social one.  

Awareness and knowledge were regarded as the easiest barriers to remove. The organisational barrier is mainly perceived as an obstacle by component and system suppliers.

The article is in Open Access in Fridoc database.

1 Silvia MINETTO, Sergio MARINETTE, Pietro SAGLIA, et al. Non-technological barriers to the diffusion of energy-efficient HVAC&R solutions for the food retail sector. International Journal of Refrigeration [online]. 2018-02, vol. 86, 13 p. Available on: 10.1016/j.ijrefrig.2017.11.022.