A report released recently identifies the availability of climate friendly technologies for the refrigeration sector in U.S. supermarkets that will allow the rapid phase-out of HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) - important and growing contributors to climate change.
In the report — "HFC-Free Technologies are Available in the US Market for the Supermarket-Retail Refrigeration Sector" — the non-profit Environmental Investigation Agency urged U.S. supermarkets to use the information to convert to HFC-free refrigeration.
Supermarket refrigeration systems are considered by some to be major emitters of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), that have global warming potential hundreds and thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2) according to sources. Leakages from refrigeration systems in a single supermarket can cause emissions equivalent to the annual emissions of 350 passenger vehicles (EPA 2011).
Danielle Gagne, EIA's HFC Policy Analyst said today: "Climate friendly refrigeration technologies are currently available in the U.S., and EIA urges U.S. retailers to begin converting to HFC free refrigeration now when refurbishing existing stores and building new stores."
The United States, Canada, and Mexico have proposed a phase-out of HFCs to be implemented by the Montreal Protocol, which governs chemicals that damage the ozone layer. This major climate protection initiative has already gathered support from 108 nations. HFCs have been widely commercialized as a replacement for ozone damaging chemicals, but are causing significant damage to the global climate.
The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global network of retailers and manufacturers, responded to the growing concern over HFCs by announcing a commitment in 2010 to "begin phasing out HFC refrigerants and replacing them with non-HFC refrigerants (natural refrigeration alternatives) where these are legally allowed and available for new purchases of point of sale units and large refrigeration systems." (CGF 2010) Despite the CGF commitment, the U.S. supermarket sector has been slow to act compared to retailers in Europe and Japan. The U.S. has an estimated 36,000 supermarkets, but only a very few stores have yet converted to non-HFC free refrigeration.
British retailers such as Sainsbury's and Marks and Spencer have committed to phase out HFCs by 2030, as has AEON, one of Japan's largest retailers. These and other European retail chains have already converted more than 1000 stores to HFC-free technologies. Fortunately, a variety of climate friendly alternatives are already available in the U.S. that would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions including carbon dioxide (CO2 or R-744), hydrocarbons such as propane (R-290) and isobutene (R-600A) and ammonia (R-717). "HFCs are the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions and will account for 20% of all GHG emissions by 2050 if action is not taken," said Mark Roberts, EIA's Senior Policy Advisor.
"Supermarkets can and should be leading the way in phasing out HFCs given the wide variety of available climate friendly technologies," he added. U.S. retailers have installed one or more of the new refrigeration technologies highlighted in EIA's report to reduce HFC emissions:
• Walmart uses an ammonia based system in its first sustainable distribution center in Alberta, Canada.
• Supervalu has installed an HFC-free cascade system in their Carpinteria, California Albertson store which uses 30% less energy than a typical HFC system.
• Sams Club's Savannah, Georgia store uses propylene glycol to replace HFC 404A and used 65% water as a secondary fluid. • Fresh & Easy's Folsom, California stores use glycol for medium temperature and CO2 for low temperatures.
• Giant (Ahold USA) is using CO2 for its primary refrigeration and propylene glycol as a secondary refrigerant in its Arlington, Virginia store.
• Wegmans has installed a CO2 system as a secondary refrigerant in two stores that use HFC 404a as a primary refrigerant, cutting the volume of HFCs by half.
To View or Download a Copy of the EIA report: "HFC-Free Technologies are Available in the US Market for the Supermarket-Retail Refrigeration Sector," CLICK HERE: http://eia-global.org/PDF/USSUPERMARKETREPORT.pdf