When supermarket engineers and others in that sector of the industry gathered in Indian Wells, Calif., for the annual Food Marketing Institute Energy & Technical Services conference, they were expecting the typical updates on energy-efficiency efforts and the new technologies to achieve that.

They got all that - and a lot more. One aspect was a new wave of regulatory measures designed to further push those efficiencies, with the pending Waxman-Markey federal legislation being the most prominent. And those new technologies went even further afield than in the past - including using wind turbines.

The Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 had, at the time of the conference, passed the U.S. House of Representatives and was heading for the Senate, said presenter Ted Gartland of Verisae. It deals with cap and trade (a regulatory approach designed to control pollution by using economic incentives to achieve reductions in the emissions of pollutants) beginning in 2012, with HFCs classified as one of the emitters. Gartland did note that talk is of a separate HFC cap.

In general, he said, U.S. climate change legislation is targeting “CO2 and other high GWP gases found to be hazardous to the health and welfare of humans.”

He cited a statement from the White House issued in August 2009 saying the United States would “work under the Montreal Protocol to phase down the use of HFCs and bring about significant reductions on this potent greenhouse gas.”

A presentation by Cathy Ikeuchi, manager of energy operations for Safeway Inc., also focused on Waxman-Markey (named for Reps. Henry Waxman and Edward Markey). “This is a cap and trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.”

She noted the cap is placed on emissions in tons per year, and then companies who exceed the allowances must purchase allowances from those who pollute less (the trade aspect).

She also noted a myriad of regional programs such as the West Climate Initiative embracing Western states and some provinces in Canada, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative covering states in the Northeast, the Midwestern Governors Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, and the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

“Regulation is going to happen,” she said. “It is a question of ‘when’ not ‘if.’ Get out in front. Know your risk and be better prepared when it happens.”

Another regulatory issue to weigh is the Energy Policy Act (EPACT) of 2005. According to Larry Howington, director of engineering for the Hill Phoenix Case Division, “EPACT 2005 mandates maximum energy limits for display cases and storage cabinets.”

The act details maximum daily energy consumption for such specific applications as refrigerators with solid doors, refrigerators with transparent doors, freezers with solid doors, and freezers with transparent doors. “These energy limits represent a 30 to 50 percent reduction over current baseline product.” In addition there are energy limits assigned by product families such as vertical, horizontal, semivertical, open, or closed.

Howington warned that “some options may disappear such as shaded pole motors, low-efficiency doors, and fluorescent lighting in door cases. But new options will take their place. Energy consumption will decrease.”

Yet another governmental factor involves commercial buildings as a whole, said representatives from the Retailers Energy Alliance (REA) as well as a number of retailers.

“The federal government is involved because net-zero energy buildings will mean dramatic reductions in the nation’s carbon footprint, lower operating expenses, more sustainable communities, and plentiful domestic energy from a clean new source: buildings that generate power back to the grid,” was one comment during a presentation by representatives of REA.

The presenters at that session also included those from The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) where technologies include solar power systems, rooftop combined heat and power, and microturbine generating; Target, with a focus on compressor and controls technology innovations among others; and Whole Foods with solar, alternative energy fuel cells, and on-site wind-generated power.


Steve Else, CEO and co-founder of Broadstar Wind Systems, brought the supermarket sector information on wind turbines in a talk titled “How Distributed Wind Power Generation Can Work For Your Company.” He said key factors for success include location and placement, saying there needs to be adequate wind and proper placement. Also, electricity prices need to be looked at, since the higher the price, the greater the incentive and payback to look at using wind.

The process of implementation include some approaches that may be a bit different for supermarket designers and engineers. “Step 1 is to conduct initial wind assessment of potential locations, and Step 2 is to install meteorological stations at potential pilot sites,” he said. Other steps, he said, involve “economic and physical viability, pursuit of permit approval, installation of an initial system, validation that results are as expected, conducting corporate wind energy assessment, and commencing a corporation-wide deployment.”

Also entering in the new dynamics of energy conservation are fundamentals of power and natural gas purchasing, as offered in a breakout session with presenters from Reliable Power Alternatives Corp. The idea was to get attendees to look beyond oil and to natural gas. “If there ever was a relationship between oil and natural gas, it has decoupled in 2009,” was one comment. “Natural gas is much more domestic in its fundamentals.”

Regarding natural gas, the presenters said the fuel supply is strong with low demand, meaning weak prices.


There was also talk at the conference about CO2 as a refrigerant (given the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers designation R-744 for such a purpose). Raphael Gerber, project manager for Frigo Consulting, outlined applications for the refrigerant in light of what he called “drivers to move away from HFCs in Europe.” He outlined overall F-gas regulations through the European Union, HFC taxes in Denmark and Sweden, charge limitations in Denmark, system layouts in Switzerland, and incentives in Germany.

At the same time, he noted challenges in efforts to better establish R-744 including “price compared with traditional direct expansion systems, lack of components, lack of training, and public perception.”

Yet, for engineers and contractors, CO2 provides what he called “opportunities.” He noted it is an early market with technical potential. The fact that it is a natural refrigerant can be considered as well as weighing its cost against the rising cost of chemical refrigerants and rising energy costs.

Publication date:01/11/2010