UK: Impact of a Warming Climate on UK Food Retail Refrigeration Systems – Recommendations for Industry

In 2010, Sainsbury’s established a partnership with Imperial College London with the goal of pursuing research that results in reducing carbon footprint from retail activities and thus mitigates the future impacts of climate change. Research has been carried out on a range of multi-disciplinary topics and due to its success the partnership now enters its 10th year.

By being one of the largest food retailers in the UK, Sainsbury’s possess a large complex supply chain of food producers, logistics, and shops to optimise. The Partnership is constantly reviewing technologies and innovative approaches to enhance business operations. Sainsbury’s is committed to reaching NET ZERO operational carbon emissions by 2040 and collaboration with Imperial College is key to reach important milestones.

A new report by the Imperial College of London and the English brand Sainsbury, published in July 2020 and available HERE, shows how the proper management of refrigerators can keep food cooler and reduce carbon footprint and energy costs.

The proposed technological solutions include both short-term measures for efficient existing systems and long-term strategies for the design of new systems.

As far as refrigeration plants are concerned, only CO2 installations are considered in this study, for which there is only “a negligible difference in performance compared to HFC refrigerants”. The study states that there is “no financial reason for the installation of new HFC systems, largely due to EU legislation on fluorinated gases”.

Management and behavioural factors have also been crucial and are a further emphasis. While there is no solution applicable to all refrigeration systems and the determination of the most relevant recommendations should be carried out on site, on a site-by-site basis, some valid recommendations are made based also on results already highlighted in other studies or practice. Among them:

  • It is recommended to optimise the heat recovery from refrigeration plants and to enhance it in heating or hot water production. This could reduce the energy consumption of supermarkets by 32 % and their CO2 emissions by 22 %;
  • It is recommended to Make doors on cabinets a legal requirement to achieve approx. 40% reduction in refrigeration energy consumption, depending on the manufacturer;
  • It is recommended to encourage/subsidise refrigeration engineer apprenticeships, because of the lack of skilled workers is an obstacle to drive forward the changes required.

For more information HERE