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Calls for government to help small retailers make low-GWP refrigerant switch

Emerson urges action as half of SME retailers surveyed say they haven’t yet started work on transition

Refrigeration giant Emerson has called for greater government support to allow smaller retailers to consider higher value, lower GWP products.

The firm revealed data from its previously published survey of European decision makers showing that 49 per cent of the SME retailers surveyed (82 participants), had begun to move away from a reliance on HFCs, which are set to be phased out through the F-Gas regulation. By comparison,  66 per cent of the 58 larger retailers interviewed for the study had commenced transition work, Emerson said. 

The survey found that only 40 per cent of the SMEs were aware of the significant quota cuts that have since been introduced as of January 1, compared to around 60 per cent of larger retailers spoken to for the study.

The poll was conducted by ComRes last August in France, Germany and the UK. 

Emerson said that with the largest cut to F-Gas quotas under the current reduction having come into effect this year, and further reductions expected within three years that will further compound prices for commonly used HFCs, it was now vital to move to alternative products.

SME respondents questioned for the study identified cost as a key challenge in adapting to the F-Gas regulations. 44 per cent of food retailers surveyed said operational expenditure was among their biggest concerns relating to refrigeration, with 39 per cent citing safety as a vital consideration.

The survey found that in cases where SME retailers were moving away from a reliance on HFCs, they were choosing different options to their larger counterparts.

58 per cent of the SMEs questioned said they had transitioned to low GWP HFCs or HFOs, with 37 per cent of larger retailers surveyed choosing the same option - preferring the natural refrigerant route.

Eric Winandy, director of integrated solutions for Emerson’s commercial and residential operations, warned that regulatory pressure was causing retailers to potentially rush into taking up what it called “stop-gap solutions”.

He said, “The research showed very few SME retailers have explored natural refrigerants like propane, which can reduce emissions and operational cost. There needs to be more education and support to help retailers select a clean and cost-effective refrigeration system that will serve the business best in the long-term.”

Emerson highlighted evidence from the Association of Convenience Stores showing that refrigeration was one of the highest ongoing areas for investment made by stores, reflecting the popularity of chilled foods in convenience retail.

The ACS said in a statement, “Convenience stores have invested heavily in refrigeration over the last few years as food to go and chilled goods become more popular in small format retail. It’s important that retailers ensure that future investments are made with upcoming regulations in mind. so that any new equipment is compliant.”

Emerson also cited research from Toby Peters, professor of ‘cold economy’ at the University of Birmingham, which urges more government support for businesses to consider alternatives such as natural refrigerants. 

Mr Winandy added, “Small businesses are the backbone of most European economies and have a significant role to play in combatting climate change, yet limited resources means they often bear the greatest burden when it comes to addressing regulatory changes.”

“The industry and government needs to work with small retailers on the HFC phase-down, by providing incentives and education about the refrigeration options available.”

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