shecco’s recent GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in China showed how the use of CO2 is beginning to grow through the efforts of international supermarkets such as Tesco, and Metro - who is looking to craft a HFC-free future.
The publication of shecco’s GUIDE to Natural Refrigerants in China – State of the Industry 2015 provided key insights into five significant markets, including the growing strength of China’s commercial refrigeration sector. In this chapter, the locations of the eight Chinese supermarkets currently utilising natural refrigerants were detailed, including two all-natural stores, alongside six CO2/HFC cascade stores.
In addition to this, the GUIDE discussed the need for government incentives as well as a concerted effort to increase the availability of training to allow for an accelerated transition to more natural refrigerant-based stores in China.
International food retailers driving introduction of CO2, increasing component availability
The emergence of CO2 applications in China’s commercial refrigeration sector has been propelled forward by international companies looking to reduce the carbon footprint of their stores, as well as reducing energy usage by between 25-40% in some instances. So far, two retail chains, Tesco and Metro have introduced CO2-based refrigeration systems in their stores in China. This has created momentum, whereby other retailers with operations elsewhere are considering opening a natural refrigerant-based store in China.
This uptake in the sector is improving the quality of the market for CO2 components in China, with an increased availability being registered in China for those looking to work with CO2 as a refrigerant. Within the last four years, the availability of components in China has noticeably improved, with 80% of components for CO2 refrigeration systems and parts to service the technology now available in China. However, compressors and related parts still need to be mostly imported, but availability within China is on the rise, increasing market competitiveness and giving system suppliers greater choice – but the majority of component suppliers are mostly still foreign enterprises or joint venture companies.
Initial cost and lack of trained personnel mitigating CO2 rollout
While the environmental virtues and energy efficiency properties of CO2 systems are being more widely credited, there are still reservations regarding the installation of CO2 systems on a mass scale in China due to its initial cost and the lack of personnel able to install, service and maintain these systems. While it has been acknowledged that the price-gap is narrowing with the increased availability of components and equipment in China, as with all new premium products, the initial investment cost remains higher. Therefore, without subsidies from the government, the incentives for end-users are greater energy efficiency and reducing their environmental footprint.
The lack of staff educated to service and maintain CO2 based technology in China is another important barrier. Unfortunately, this is not just regionalised to China, a critical factor demanding a broader worldwide strategy to ensure engineers are well-trained and that the procurment of green technology is not impeded.
Despite these considerations, the respondents to the GUIDE survey for natural refrigerants showed that there is great optimism for the future. When the nearly 1,000 respondents were asked to rank potential applications with the highest potential for the use of natural refrigerants, commercial refrigeration came in fourth on the list.