A supermarket consumes lots of energy, and it is becoming more and more expensive. Yet operators do not just have to keep a close eye on energy consumption for financial reasons. At this point, many customers also emphasize sustainability in the corporate culture of retailers they patronize. In this interview with EuroShop.de, Christoph Brouwers, director, Integrated Systems, Carrier Commercial Refrigeration, Europe, Middle East and Africa, talks about comprehensive energy management in retail and the trends in heating and cooling technology.
Mr. Brouwers, sustainability is currently one of the most important topics in retail. How can comprehensive energy management help in improving sustainability?
Sustainability is becoming an increasingly popular topic, especially in food retailing. Huge savings potentials still lie dormant, particularly in supermarket refrigeration. It is especially important to tap into these, since refrigeration systems make up by far the largest electricity consumption in supermarkets. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to optimize supermarket refrigeration systems “individually” without taking advantage of the vast energy savings potential in the integration of building technology.
When it comes to environmental stewardship in food retail, it is important to comprehensively manage the company’s overall approach in addition to integrating the proper building services and commercial refrigeration systems. We suggest a remote service in this case. Thanks to its continuous online monitoring of operations and known trend developments, maximum energy efficiency can be achieved through ongoing improvement of operating parameters, for instance.
What role does refrigeration and heating technology play for the sustainable operation of a supermarket or store?
It plays one of the most important roles, because refrigeration technology in food retail is one of the leading consumers of energy. Another aspect is that many facilities today still refrigerate with synthetic refrigerants that possess a high global warming potential. What’s more, you can never guarantee that the mile-long pipes and hundreds of junctures of a typical supermarket refrigeration system will remain 100 percent leak-proof in daily operations.
This is why Carrier has focused on the use of natural refrigerants, in particular CO2, for quite some time now. When the CO2 in the atmosphere is first captured into hermetically sealed systems and is then released again, it can be considered climate-neutral. In terms of supermarket refrigeration, CO2 also has the advantage of being widely available.
One of the latest solutions by Carrier Kältetechnik are CO2OLtec Integral systems. Could you briefly explain how such an integral system works?
Each refrigeration system produces considerable waste heat that is dispensed unused into the atmosphere. With the CO2OLtec Integral system solution, store operators have the opportunity to effectively recover this waste heat and use it to heat the building or for domestic hot water production.
This principle is essentially not new. However, what’s really new is our approach to how we make the heat available again in an energy-efficient manner through the integrated system. If system management works properly, the waste heat can be utilized most of the year for heating purposes without any additional energy expenditure and without the use of fossil energy carriers.
We collaborated with field experts during the cross-industry development of a refrigeration/waste heat concept, and are thus laying the foundation for a total system solution in the future. Paired with an intelligent, trend recognition centralized building control system, during later operation, energy cost savings of more than 35 percent can be achieved year by year, depending on the electricity/gas energy mix.
What investments are necessary on the part of retailers to ensure an energy-efficient operation as it pertains to new construction as well as for retrofitting existing locations?
The necessary investments differ greatly, depending on the project. Depending on the store format – ranging from a small convenience store all the way to a large-scale discount store – the applied technologies also differ of course. We experienced however that generally an integral system has been amortized in less than four years with new buildings. However, when you remodel existing installations, you need to adapt your system to the already existing technology of course. You should assume an amortization period of six to eight years in this case, since feasible or existing heat transfer systems limit efficiency. However, since such a system will be used for approximately 15 years, it is a sensible and particularly sustainable investment.
Where is the trend headed? Which technologies will contribute to making refrigeration and heating technology even more (energy-) efficient in the future?
Just recently, we reviewed 126 different German stores in terms of their energy consumption. More than half of them already utilized the new CO2 booster technology for normal and low temperatures. Within a group of 93 markets where multi decks were equipped with glass doors in less than 20 percent of cases, CO2 booster refrigeration systems achieve average energy savings of 13 percent compared to systems using the R404A refrigerant. Based on this data, we are very confident in publishing savings of 13 percent, knowing full well how large the variation of comparable markets with identical technology can be due to many factors that cannot be influenced by the equipment manufacturer, such as customer frequency, sales, variations in the cold chain, different climate zones etc. What’s more, the study is based on an industry-accepted, neutral benchmark tool.
The market penetration of CO2 technology will continue in many refrigeration applications in the future. In Europe, there are currently approximately 2,900 transcritical CO2 booster refrigeration systems in use; Carrier Commercial Refrigeration Europe alone has installed 664 of them. This is why this technology is already a part of our day-to-day business today.
We believe the trend will continue towards natural refrigerants. Technical developmentsindicate that refrigeration systems with CO2 will become at least as energy-efficient even in warmer climates compared to those that use synthetic refrigerants. In heating technology, the optimized use of waste heat is going to prevail more and more.
Interview by Daniel Stöter; EuroShop.de