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We want industry to support us in new technology, say supermarkets

Leading supermarkets have urged the UK rac industry to support them in their adoption of new technology and alternative refrigerants or risk being left behind.

Asda refrigeration manager Brian Churchyard challenged delegates at RAC’s Supermarket Debate ‘to adapt their engineering to what the retailers want.’

He said: “We have to overcome the fear of the unfamiliar and take a leap of faith together. The challenge is to bring the solutions to the UK base, so we don’t have to go outside.”

Mr Churchyard said that supermarkets were being careful to fully evaluate alternative refrigerants and other advanced technologies before rolling them out across their estates. “We want to take a step back and see we are going the right ways, but once the evaluation period is over we will move quickly. If you don’t start embracing new alternatives, you will be left behind.”

Midlands-Coop refrigeration manager Paul Garton added that manufacturers needed to do more to embrace the greener technologies. He said: “We hope to move to hydrocarbon integral cabinets by the summer, but it has been impossible to standardise on a single cabinet. And the biggest cabinet maker is using HFCs.
It is also frustrating that often the efficient components are offered as options, rather than packaged together as the best ‘environmental case’.”

Morrisons Service Manager Paul Hooper said that the store would install carbon dioxide cascaded LT plant on all new builds and major refits, but it was also looking at a range of other technologies, including Airius destratification fans which redistribute the stores’ warm air, and fuel cells for utilising store waste output. He said; “We really need more information – and funding – from the government on this technology.”

With two of the three panellists installing CO2 systems and all three in varying stages of adopting hydrocarbon integral units, the retailers were critical of the Environmental Investigation Agency’s recent report into supermarkets and alternative refrigerants. The EIA was critical of the speed in which the retailers adopted alternatives and called for an accelerated move away from HFCs.

Mr Hooper said: “The EIA has to have a better understanding of the industry before it makes such calls. But we have to look at the contractor base too. I don’t think the end user should be responsible for training the contractors on all technology.”

For the retail partners Epta group’s John Austin Davies added: “I don’t think we can move any quicker, while the supermarkets can bring alternatives to their new stores it is not feasible to expect them to do it to their existing estates. It is about having availability of proven components, we have got to have uniform products and advice to contractors based on consistent information.”

Mr Churchyard also called for information on systems to be cascaded down to the engineer level. He said: “Too often the service engineer gets into the store at two in the morning and doesn’t understand why it is not going to work.”

Mr Hooper concluded: “We all need to unite as an industry and move forward together.”

More from the show seminars in May.