Retail Refrigeration Stays Chill Under Regulatory Pressure
Progressive Grocer|Janaury 2021
FOOD RETAIL OPERATORS ARE RE-EVALUATING THEIR SYSTEMS TO COMPLY WITH REGULATORY MANDATES AND SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES WHILE ACCOMMODATING E-COMMERCE FULFILLMENT.
Marian Zboraj

As climate change concerns intensify, the need for sustainable refrigeration is growing. In fact, the refrigeration systems used in food retail have been called out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for years as being a primary contributor to indirect greenhouse gas emissions.

And now, as the nation prepares for a Biden administration that favors ambitious climate policies, retailers of food and consumables could be looking at stringent new requirements regarding emissions.

With new regulations looming, food retailers are under more pressure to make the transition to low global-warming potential (GWP) refrigeration systems.

California’s Crackdown on HFCs

The state of California has been a pioneer in developing regulations to reduce climate “super pollutants” for years. Just recently, in December, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved first-in-the-nation rules to curb the impact of powerful artificial refrigerants. The new rules affect commercial and industrial stationary refrigeration units such as those used by large grocery stores.

The refrigerants, known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are considered super pollutants because their impact on global warming can be hundreds to thousands of times greater than that of carbon dioxide. For example, R404A is an HFC blend that has been used for many years as a long-term refrigerant for commercial applications, but has come under scrutiny due to its high GWP.

“Chemical refrigerants are fast-acting super pollutants, and the fastest-growing source of climate gases in the world today,” says Mary D. Nichols, chair of Sacramento-based CARB. “And as the earth grows warmer, people will need to cool food, medicine and their buildings even more than we do today. We need safer alternatives to be deployed as fast as possible.”

California is required to reduce HFC emissions 40% below 2013 levels by 2030 under Senate Bill 1383 to help the state achieve its goal of carbon neutrality. CARB estimates that the rules will achieve annual reductions by approximately 3.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2030.

Take note: Laws aimed at reducing HFC emissions aren’t only occurring in the state of California. Sixteen other states have passed legislation that regulates HFCs, based on California’s rules, or are currently in the process of doing so.

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