EIA: U.S. fast-food chains not reducing HFCs in India

In a new report, the NGO urges chains like McDonald’s and Burger King to transition to natural refrigerants, following lead of brands like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

In a new report, released today, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has claimed that multinational fast-food and beverage chains operating in India are not doing enough to reduce their HFC use in the Asian country and should switch to natural refrigerants.

The Washington, D.C.-based NGO states in its new report “Transitioning HFCs in India” that U.S.-based fast-food companies Burger King, Domino’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Subway, Yum! Brands and India-based Café Coffee Day could avoid emissions and reduce cost by transitioning from high-global-warming refrigerants to climate-friendly alternatives.

It does, however, point out the multinational food and drinks manufacturers like Coca-Cola, Hindustan Unilever, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch InBev have plans to move away from HFCs.

Hindustan Unilever (part of the Dutch-British multinational group Unilever and headquartered in Mumbai) has done a lot in India. It “has 73,000 freezers with hydrocarbon technology in India, which covers more than 90% of their retail freezers in India, and they will be phasing out HFC freezers completely”, the report states.

“All five food and beverage manufacturers have made information available on some specific HVAC commitment or action related to HFC-free refrigerants, the report continued, “with several committing to integrate HFC-free equipment in new purchases across their value chains.”

On the other hand, only three of the eight fast-food restaurants have taken action – but not in India. In particular, Starbucks is planning to implement some natural refrigeration equipment in its coolers and freezers; McDonald’s Europe has installed more than 9,000 pieces of natural refrigerant-based equipment;  and Subway uses hydrocarbon back-counter chillers in the UK and Ireland.

“While they have made significant voluntary commitments to move to green refrigeration and cooling systems in their parent market, they refuse to do so in India,” according to Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, India, quoted in in an EIA press release. 

Fast-food restaurants can save cost

The environmental organization explains that by switching to low-GWP equipment these fast food companies could also reduce electricity demanded, which can account for half of a restaurant’s electricity consumption in refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment.

By purchasing HFC-free equipment in all new retail locations, our analysis estimates the eight fast food chains could save in excess of $300 million USD in electricity costs between now and 2030 due to the increased energy efficiency of HFC-free equipment.
EIA report

“By purchasing HFC-free equipment in all new retail locations, our analysis estimates the eight fast food chains could save in excess of $300 million USD in electricity costs between now and 2030 due to the increased energy efficiency of HFC-free equipment,” the report states.

“Natural, low-GWP refrigerants including hydrocarbons and ammonia have properties that are well suited to operating efficiently under high-ambient conditions such as those in India.”

Air conditioning could benefit most from improved energy efficiency. One rooftop AC packaged unit can consume 20,000 kWh and emit the CO2e emissions of 114 cars in one year.

In India, a large fast-food restaurant installs two of these units. If fast-food companies were to install “packaged ammonia systems […they could] achieve 20%-25% reductions in energy consumption,” the report stated.

“For smaller fast food outlets, room air conditioners (RACs) using hydrocarbons may be a more viable option,” it adds.

The Indian-based company Godrej has already had some success with its RAC systems and according to sheccoBase has 400,000 AC system installed in India so far. “In addition, the R290 units provide 10% energy savings compared to similar R22 and R410A units,” the EIA report states. 

The report also advocates using refrigeration cabinet systems using hydrocarbons and CO2.

“Commercially available foodservice and food retail coolers and freezers using propane have been shown to be 15% to 25% more efficient,” the report highlights, noting CO2 stand-alone systems “are [also] showing energy efficiency improvements of 18% to 37% compared to HFC-134a units, depending on the climate”.  

The NGO ends the report by pushing the companies to initiate “pilot programs for low-GWP equipment in stores throughout India,” come up with refrigeration management policies, conduct in-house training on flammable refrigerants, make information freely available on what they are currently doing to transition away from HFCs and “conduct a comprehensive assessment of potential energy and cost savings from adoption of HFC-free equipment”.

The EIA also notes policy makers could do more. “The Indian Government should... support transition to HFC-free technologies by increased capacity building of the RAC servicing sector that could support these multinationals in increasing usage of natural refrigerants in India,” it said.

By Charlotte McLaughlin

Oct 30, 2017, 15:08

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