EIA: Beyond the Dirty Dozen reveals lack of progress in U.S. commercial refrigeration

By Robert Davidson, Jul 09, 2015, 10:30 3 minute reading

In a follow-up to their 2013 report into the lack of action by U.S. retailers to address leakages of HFCs, the EIA found that while some retailers have taken tentative steps, large retailers such as Walmart are failing to act despite signing declarations to tackle HFC leakages.

Beyond the Dirty Dozen posits that since the EIA’s 2013 publication about the lack of action by the U.S.’s large retailers, that little has been done to nullify this claim. The report outlines the efforts of each major retailer in the U.S. while once more asserting the negative implications of their delayed or subdued action, adding urgent policy recommendations to mitigate the damage.

With European, Japanese and Canadian retailers continuing to take action on HFC leaks, with the rolling out of natural refrigerant-based stores or increasing maintenance on older fluorinated gas-based systems, the lack of progress in America is up for scrutiny.

How do the retailers stack up?

Included in the report is a profile of the major 12 retailers in the United States - who make up 43% of the entire market - and their efforts to reduce leakages in their light commercial, commercial or industrial refrigeration facilities. The report marks out areas of approval and areas where these retailers are not doing their bit, with the overall message that more must be done to counter the leakages of these damaging refrigerants.

The EIA published a ‘call to action’ for those supermarkets not seen to be pulling their weight. They clearly implore members of the Consumers Good Forum to fulfill their commitment to “begin phasing out HFC refrigerants by 2015 and replace them with non-HFC refrigerants where these are legally allowed and available for new purchases of point-of-sale units and large refrigeration installations.”

How is the problem caused? And how is it fixed?

The source of concern stems from retailers huge emissions of HFC and ozone depleting substance emissions. The EIA notes that on average, each supermarket leaks 25% of its 3,500-pound refrigerant charge. In the U.S., there are more than 37,000 supermarkets, with each emitting on average 1,556 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent of HFCs each year, just from leaks in their refrigeration units.

These leakages can be fixed by switching to a refrigeration system that utilises a natural refrigerant such as CO2. This switch can reduce the supermarkets footprint by 25% and eliminate leakages of climate-damaging gases. Other refrigerants noted by the EIA report include hydrocarbons and ammonia, which can be used in plug n’ play models and cold storage, respectively.

Stronger regulations needed for U.S. supermarkets to catch up

The report concluded with the acknowledgement that:

“Voluntary measures and fear of regulation have not cased retailers to move forward and away from leaking climate damaging refrigerants.” 

As a result of this, U.S. supermarkets continue to create a bigger void between them and European and Japanese competitors by failing to use HFC-free refrigeration systems. The EIA recommends the U.S. Government to impose strong and robust regulations to help bridge the gap that is widening between the U.S. and other advanced economies.

Other low-hanging fruit solutions the EIA suggests is that retailers should publicly commit to install doors on refrigerators and freezer cases in all new stores, as well as having a roll-out plan to install case doors in existing stores. This is something the EIA has successfully campaigned for in Europe and has proven leads to radical drops in energy consumption and bills.


By Robert Davidson

Jul 09, 2015, 10:30

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