These were just some of the challenges facing those who deal with refrigeration on a daily basis, according to a range of presentations at the most recent Food Marketing Institute Energy and Technical Services Conference. More than 500 persons involved in refrigeration, HVAC, lighting, and facilities and energy management from manufacturing, contracting, and supermarkets participated. And as befitting the technical talks and serious issues discussed, the conference took place at a hotel in the very business-like Denver Tech Center that consists of 14 million square feet of office space in a 900-acre suburban office park just south of the downtown.
ENERGY ISSUES“The days of cheap oil are over. Global economic development is ramping up and everything is going to get more expensive. The global concern over greenhouse gasses is also ramping up.”
Those were some of the key current energy issues, said Joel S. Gilbert, chief software architect for Apogee Interactive. He said supermarket refrigeration people have to be especially conscious of this, given the high-energy usage of stores for HVAC and especially for refrigeration.
While those making operation decisions focus on what Gilbert called “energy conformance and performance,” he warned those in the audience not to get caught up in “grand visions” concerning energy efficiency and green initiatives that may be held by higher-level officials who are not aware of HVACR technology.
“Small visions are unattractive to our senior execs, but big visions are potentially unachievable,” he said. Instead “think about sustainable energy management and build that into the management framework.
“Is your management thinking critically? Do they understand price-volume risks?”
Some keys, he said, consist of benchmarking present situations to measure improvements, and serious attention to interval data. One practical suggestion, he offered, concerned monitoring dampers. “If the store is closed, so it should be with those dampers. Then ask yourself what else is running at night that shouldn’t.”
He also warned about the problem of ESO - which he defined as “equipment superior to operator.” Today’s equipment is so smart and so superior, we have to train people to run this equipment,” which can be a challenging task, he said.
He said issues near and dear to environmentalists such as wind power, energy generation at landfills, and a means of reducing livestock methane gas issues all have merit but are micro solutions to major environmental issues. He suggested that the reason the planet is hotter might not be related as much to HVACR as it is to more pavements and warehouses where once there were pastures. He said, “Then look at where heat sensors are located,” implying many are in those developed areas.
ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATIONSJulius Banks, National Recycling and Emissions Reduction Program Manager for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told attendees that revised acceptable leak rates for supermarket equipment may be announced within the next three to eight months. Currently, regulations allow for up to a 35 percent rate for refrigeration equipment, but the new number is expected to be considerably lower. One later presenter at the conference suggested the rate could be 15 percent.
Banks did point out the rates relate to equipment with CFCs and HCFCs, but not to equipment with HFCs. However, he said, the intentional venting of any of those refrigerants is not allowed.
Since those on the refrigeration side deal with a far greater number of refrigerants than their counterparts in HVAC, Banks reviewed a wide range of currently used refrigerants. He pointed out that a number of interim refrigerants being used in retrofit applications in lieu of CFC-12 and -502, do contain various amounts of R-22.
So with the phaseout of any production of R-22 by 2020, those interim refrigerants will not be available. He encouraged attendees to be aware of the content of any refrigerant and to consult with manufacturers as to availability and use.
Bella Maranion, program analyst for the EPA, told attendees that progress continues to be made in further developing the voluntary GreenChill joint effort between the EPA and the supermarket industry. She said the program is designed to recognize efforts made by supermarkets to deal with such issues as ozone depletion, greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, reducing costs, extending shelf life of food, and improvement of system design.
She said the EPA helps develop standards through committees. There is also use of a confidential third party in the gathering of information concerning refrigerant stocking and a store’s refrigerant management plan, to be used as a baseline to see how the industry sector is making improvements in such areas.
She said five supermarket chains and two industry manufacturers have already signed on as GreenChill sponsors and several supermarkets are having improvements made that are being measured to GreenChill criteria.
She said that later this fall or winter, there will be a ceremony to officially launch GreenChill.
Also speaking was Georgi Kazachki of Cryotherm who was acting as a consultant for a GreenChill study on various methods of refrigeration available to supermarkets. Kazachki said secondary loop and distributed approaches for store refrigeration can hold their own against the more widely used direct expansion systems, and, in some instances, can show energy improvements. He noted the initial research involving stores in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Boulder, Colo., will be expanded.
TECHNICIAN SHORTAGEIn one of what were three hour-long discussion sessions related to technician shortages, a large audience of retailers, contractors and manufacturers discussed a wide range of probable causes including a shortfall of students in some vocational schools compared to past years, and the need for more up-to-date donated equipment. Both equipment manufacturers and contractors voiced concerns over getting the qualified techs and cited such possible causes as the allure of other industries and the different work ethic of the younger generation.
At one point, a participant suggested that potential refrigeration technicians are instead going over to the HVAC sector because “they can work less hours.”
When one participant said he knows of refrigeration techs working 80 to 90 hours a week, he suggested this is driving many away, meaning those who are left have to work even more hours “which results in even fewer wanting to get in (to the refrigeration sector).
“It’s a snowball effect.”
In general, the participants suggested the topic should be given a high priority within FMI to the point of forming a task force to look into solutions in a more formal, structured manner.
CARBON FOOTPRINTEverybody in the HVACR industry needs to be aware of the term “carbon footprint,” according to several presenters.
Rob Kirkby, president of Energy Advantage Inc., said, “Climate change is real and is already underway.” And that is being understood, he said, by the general public who will continue to call on all those able to respond including commercial refrigeration. To that point he noted that a 2006 report from Ceres, an environmental investment group, “focused on the food industry as one of the key sectors. And overall, the food industry was one of the lowest scoring in terms of strategy, disclosure, and emission accounting.”
One key emission measurement he said is the so-called carbon footprint. He defined that as “a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide or total greenhouse gases that can be attributed to a certain product, company, or organization.”
He noted, “Climate change can have an impact on your bottom line. A carbon footprint will help you recognize what that impact is. The reality is that there are multiple opportunities to measure and manage the carbon footprint of your supply chain.”
One component of carbon emissions concerns the use of credits. Michael Walsh, executive vice president of Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), explained the concept. CCX was described as “the world’s first and North America’s only voluntary, legally binding, integrated greenhouse gas reduction and trading system for all six greenhouse gases with offset projects in North America and worldwide.”
Entities such as manufacturers, governments, universities, and utilities among others who become members agree to reduce their emissions by a certain amount. In an example given, it was about 1 percent a year. If they are able to reduce emissions by 2 percent, they earn one credit; by 3 percent, two credits, and so on. They can then sell those credits to another entity that may not have met its target reduction. Since the credits only kick in after the initial target reduction, the net effect is an overall emission reduction of at least one percent.
Walsh also noted there is an offset aspect, for entities that show positive results in such areas as methane gas curtailment, reforestation, and renewable energy as well as others. The point here, he noted, is that those efforts also result in overall emission reductions.
Walsh noted that the concept is still a work in progress in the United States although the idea is more established in Europe with the European Climate Exchange (ECX) as an example.
In a related presentation Tom McIntyre, senior manager, Resource Conservation and Environmental Stewardship, for SuperValu Inc., reported on progress by the FMI’s own Sustainability Task Force. He noted there is now an FMI Sustainability Toolkit to help in planning environmental and energy efficiency efforts in supermarkets. That kit includes “practical tips, advice, strategies, and best practices.”
ASHRAE AND REFRIGERATIONA presentation on projects of the American Society of Heating, Air-Conditioning and Refrigerating Engineers focused on those related to refrigeration.
It was noted that ASHRAE Standard 15 deals with safety standards for refrigeration systems. Technical Committee 10.7 includes involvement from more than 35 supermarket industry experts with responsibility for handbook, programs, standards, and research. And SPC-147 deals in part with reducing the release of refrigerants as well as installation and maintenance requirements. It was also reported that SPC-147 is also adding a section on supermarket racks.
Presenters encouraged those in the refrigeration sector to provide input on the ASHRAE projects and consider volunteering to serve in various capacities.
During the conference, it was also announced that the next FMI Energy and Technical Services Conference will be Sept. 7-10, 2008 in Orlando, Fla.