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Supermarkets can combat climate change: Maine grocery store adopts HFC-free refrigeration system

Delhaize America, a Belgium company, is opening a state-of-the-art, climate-friendly grocery store this week in Turner, Maine. The Hannaford grocery store will be the first in the country to use a CO2 transcritical system that will use carbon dioxide (CO2) as a refrigerant rather than HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) -- super greenhouse gases thousands of times worse for the global climate than CO2.

The new system will reduce the store’s carbon footprint by 3.4 million pounds of CO2 equivalent every year, which is the same as taking 305 cars off the road. By following the lead of other progressive retailers around the world that have been using these natural refrigerant systems, Delhaize will be one the first U.S. supermarket chains to adopt the next generation of refrigeration systems that are HFC-free.

Cost-Effective and Energy Efficient

This new climate-friendly system has many advantages. CO2 is inexpensive; leaks are easy to fix; piping is smaller; and the system is energy efficient. Delhaize has recognized that to meet their target to lower their greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020, they need to move away from the outdated HFC refrigerants. As Harrison Horning, Director of Energy and Facility Services of Delhaize North America stated in a recent interview, “We realized that refrigerant emissions could easily be 25% to 30% of the greenhouse-gas emissions pie. We knew we had to try a lot of things and one was advanced refrigeration systems and natural refrigerants.”

With huge energy savings to be realized, this store will not only be a pilot for Delhaize, but it will also be an example for retailers throughout the United States. Natural refrigerants, like CO2 are widely accepted and used in Europe, but U.S. companies are lagging behind. The trend may change soon as President Obama’s climate change plan goes into effect, which calls for transitioning from HFCs wherever possible. The plan sends a clear message to consumers and producers of HFCs that the US market is shifting away from the outdated refrigerants.

Addressing HFCs on a global scale

The United States, Canada and Mexico as well as Micronesia have filed petitions to amend the Montreal Protocol, the treaty set up to eliminate gases that harm the ozone layer, to be able to also implement a phase-down of HFCs. As John Thompson, Deputy Director of the Office of Environmental Policy (ENV), U.S. Department of State stated, “If you want to address HFCs on a global scale we have a model that works already, the Montreal Protocol. It’s a mechanism that every country knows and we can use the model to implement a gradual phase down.” Since 2008, EIA has been working to encourage an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase-out HFCs.

Overall, the market share of supermarkets using natural refrigerants is increasing, but more needs to be done to phase-out HFCs as expeditiously as possible. Delhaize and their Hannaford store are on the frontier of the progression towards transitioning to natural refrigerants and their willingness to share results will be a huge step in the right direction for natural refrigerants penetration in the North American marketplace. George Parmenter, Manager of Sustainability for Hannaford caught the significance of opening this store when he said, “Our company is proud of the work done by the Engineering team by bringing this CO2 refrigeration system to Hannaford because it represents one more way for us to keep costs and prices down for customers while we help safeguard the environment.”

The truth is that natural refrigerants are more energy efficient than HFCs in many applications, they are better for the environment, they are reliable, and there is absolutely no reason that U.S. supermarkets are not aggressively transitioning now. There are no more excuses, the time has come to phase-out these harmful refrigerants.

For more information, please contact the authors.

Danielle Gagne
HFC and Climate Policy Analyst
Tel. 202-483-6621
dgagne@eia-global.org

Lowell Chandler
Tel. 202-483-6621

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