Ahold’s global perspective on CO2 systems: 100% CO2 in 10 years?

By Silvia Scaldaferri, May 21, 2013, 11:24 5 minute reading

At ATMOsphere Europe R744.com had the chance to interview the international supermarket retailer Ahold, which has strong local consumer brands in Europe and the United States and over 3000 stores. Emma Coles, Vice President Corporate Responsibility at the Royal Ahold Group, talks about their existing CO2 installations and the company’s future plans in both Europe and the US.

R744.com: How many CO2 systems does Ahold have in place today and what are the different types?

Emma Coles: We have over 190 hybrid CO2 systems in the Netherlands where we use CO2 for freezing and R134a for cooling. We are a member of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) and support the CGF resolution to phase-out HFCs in new stores from 2015 and are therefore piloting 3 systems, which is where we work fully with CO2. We have recently sold our share in ICA where CO2 systems have been implemented in over 50 stores in Sweden.

R744.com: What is the market share based on the total amount of Ahold stores? What are your plans for the next 5-10 years in regards to the number of CO2 systems in your stores?

Coles: We have around 3000 stores, so CO2 systems still have quite a low share. However, we are planning to increase this over the coming years. In the Netherlands, for example, we rebuild about 150 stores a year and we have 850 stores now. If the CO2 pilots that we are operating right now are successful in 3 months time, we will put them in the roll-out and in five years time, we should have reached half our stores and in ten years time they will probably be in almost all our stores. But it depends on the pilots being successful in the Netherlands. In Scandinavia we are rolling it out as the standard.

R744.com: What is the situation outside of Europe?

Coles: We are struggling in the US. We have implemented some systems with lower charge, some with glycol etc., and we use CO2 for freezing, but we don’t have a CO2- only system yet. We are looking at other options and other players who could possibly help us in the US.

R744.com: What can you say about the initial investment cost of these new systems? Is price an issue?

Coles: In the US, the pilot quotes that we have on the table would require additional funding and therefore we are looking at investing in CO2 stores on a global level and evaluating if this is the right solution. Therefore, we will also see with our European partners whether there is something we can do.

R744.com: Besides using natural refrigerants in your stores, have you also considered using CO2 for your transportation refrigeration?

At the moment, the refrigeration component of our transportation is a very small share of our CO2 transport emissions. The diesel fuel is a far larger share of Aholds footprint.

R744.com: Going back to those Ahold CO2 stores that are already operational, could you already share with us some results regarding the average energy savings you obtain?

Coles: I don’t know about the US, but what I am hearing from the 3 pilot stores in the Netherlands is that the results are very positive, not just based on CO2 direct emissions but also on the indirect emissions, meaning that energy is saved in general.

R744.com: What is your opinion on the three main challenges retailers face when implementing CO2 systems in Europe?

Coles: I believe the system we are piloting right now is one, which, if it works, we will roll out because it will reduce CO2 and it will be at least equal to traditional systems from an energy perspective. The total lifetime costs will be equal or better. I think that we were questioning our suppliers because of maintenance issues, but they have provided us with a turn-key solution, so I believe we will be ok in that respect.

We have bigger problems in the US. First there were issues from a legislative perspective but now that those have been removed cost remains an issue. There are not as many players and there does not seem to be as much competition as in Europe. On June 4th/5th the Consumer Goods Forum will be holding its third refrigeration summit entitled “Moving away from HFCs....naturally”. The summit is hosted by Tesco will bring together retailers and natural refrigeration suppliers to discuss the solutions to a faster and geographically wider uptake of natural refrigeration technology.

R744.com: Do you have any suggestions regarding training and maintenance? What do you expect from other players such as manufacturers, associations or government?

Coles: I am not an expert in the area of training and maintenance, but in regards to the manufacturers, we would like our partners to give us turn-key solutions and look after everything. We have very successfully worked with our suppliers to bring our leakage rates down.

There is this “stand-off” going on between the manufacturers and the retailers where the manufacturer says “trust us, our systems work” and we, the retailers, say “prove it”. One way for them to prove it would be to install the systems and guarantee certain results in terms of efficiency, cost etc. But we know that the industry is still in development so instead we are piloting with our suppliers.

Associations can help by putting the climate impact of refrigeration on the agenda, and government/ legislation can play an important role in levelling that playing field. As an aside, we looked at the proposed new F-gas regulation by the European Commission and if it goes ahead as planned it looks like we will be able to meet its requirements due to our existing program to reduce the impact of our refrigeration.

Thank you very much!

About Emma Coles

Emma Coles oversees Ahold’s Group-wide CR strategy in the company’s five priority areas, which are implemented at operating-company level. She works closely with managers and CR leads at each of Ahold’s operating companies. Emma also coordinates Ahold’s communications with both internal and external stakeholders on CR-topics.

Before joining Ahold in 2010, Emma was the Director of the Health Insurance Fund, a Dutch foundation supporting low-cost health insurance in Africa. She has previously worked in both the consulting and non-profit sectors. Emma has an MBA from the IESE Business School.


By Silvia Scaldaferri

May 21, 2013, 11:24

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