Sainsbury’s accelerates green refrigeration programme

CO2 refrigerant
Sainsbury's shift to refrigeration based on CO2 is central to its carbon reduction agenda.

Sainsbury’s is accelerating its CO2 refrigeration programme as it recently opened its 100th store to be equipped with the green technology. The opening of the store, in Ely, Cambridgeshire, meant that CO2 refrigeration has cut Sainsbury’s carbon footprint by 250,000 tonnes since conversion began two years ago.

In 2009, the supermarket announced its plan to switch to CO2, which could reduce its carbon footprint by a third. It also committed to converting the first 135 stores to CO2 by 2014. However, due to the success of the installation programme, the target for 2014 has been increased to 250 stores.

The gases most commonly used in supermarket refrigeration are HFCs and HCFCs, also known as 'F-gases'. Whereas F-gases have a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 2000 to 3000, CO2 has a GWP of just 1, making it many times less ‘damaging’ in environmental terms.

David Sheehan, Sainsbury's director of store development, said: “When we began converting to CO2, there was a severe shortage of expertise in the engineering community. However, the work we have carried out with our refrigeration suppliers to re-train engineers and grow the market for CO2 refrigeration has been so successful that we are now able to convert our estate much more quickly.

“Cutting CO2 is a huge priority for us, and addressing refrigeration in this way allows us to make the largest possible difference in the shortest possible time. As part of Sainsbury’s 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan, we aim to cut our absolute carbon footprint by 30 per cent by 2020, and the industry-leading work we are doing here will make a sizable contribution to this goal.

“As we continue to invest, we make the market for this technology more accessible to others. In this way, we hope that other companies will follow our lead and recognise the benefits brought about by CO2. We estimate that if all UK supermarkets converted to CO2, UK carbon emissions would immediately drop by 2 million tonnes per year.”

Refrigeration is the largest source of greenhouse gases in any supermarket through both the energy required to power them and the refrigerants themselves. Sainsbury's began converting its estate in 2009, and since March 2010, all new stores have been fitted with CO2 as standard.

During that time, Sainsbury’s has also retrained 180 refrigeration service engineers to provide them with the new skills and knowledge necessary to maintain the new fridges in stores all over the country.

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