A supermarket chain in the United Kingdom has pledged to move away from HFC refrigerants and use propane for its refrigeration needs. Waitrose, which has 225 stores and is the sixth largest grocery retailer in the UK, said it completed development of the propane technology and has so far introduced it in four stores with 25 more planned for 2010, according to a statement from the chain. The full changeover is expected by 2020.

According to the statement, the new propane based fridges will:

• Cut energy costs by at least 10 percent.

• Cut servicing and maintenance costs by at least 50 percent.

• Be quicker to install than traditional options.

“With 60 percent of the electricity we use going on refrigeration, it is an absolutely vital part of our work to reduce our impact on the environment,” said Nigel Keen, Waitrose director of development. “Over the next 10 years the reduction in our carbon emissions will be the equivalent of taking 35,000 cars off the road.

“And the significant business benefits of our new technology show that green measures don’t have to cost the Earth. The technology is easier to install and cheaper to run, and we hope our commitment to it will inspire other supermarkets to make the switch.”

TECHNOLOGY

Waitrose said the propane-based installations are relatively simple systems that can be serviced by retrained engineers. Waitrose engineers took two years to develop the technology in partnership with Midlands-based Carter Thermal Ltd.

“The technology is based on the safe use of propane, a flammable gas that is cost neutral and wholly natural,” the company said.

The chain acknowledged heavily investing in the new equipment during the development state. “However it is recouping costs now that the green fridges are in its shops.”

MORE GREEN

The propane technology is one part of Waitrose’s work to reduce its environmental impact. It also noted that 100 percent of the electricity the retailer buys is from green sources. The company is also “recovering previously wasted cold air from fridges to use in place of air conditioning in other areas of the shop, and warm air to use in place of heating for shops.”

RECOGNITION

The efforts have garnered the chain recognition from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an independent organization that says it works “undercover to expose international environmental crime.”

One aspect of its operation is called Chilling Facts, which conducts supermarket refrigeration surveys and calls for such places to “stop using global warming gases in their refrigeration systems.”

The results were based on a survey conducted in the summer of 2009. A questionnaire was sent out asking supermarkets about their refrigeration in-store, behind the scenes and for transport - as well as about leakages, energy-efficiency, training of refrigeration engineers and future plans.

Fionnuala Walravens, campaigner from the EIA said: “Waitrose’s efforts have impressed the Chilling Facts judging panel with their simple and efficient technology, taking them from a near bottom ranking last year to top in 2010.”

Publication date: 06/07/2010