Tackling energy challenges with technology

Cold Chain News reports from the Energy Zone at the Cold Chain Federation’s Cold Chain Live! conference in September 2022.

London, UK: Tom Southall, policy director, Cold Chain Federation, outlined strategies to tackle the move to net zero cold stores, chairing the debate at Cold Chain Live Energy Zone, sponsored by Star Refrigeration.

There was a consensus on the panel that reducing consumption and making the most of the power being purchased were the starting point for energy efficiency.

Blue Cube’s Alan Hunt stressed how working together by consulting or forming mini-consortiums is becoming increasingly important. Discussing blast freezing, he said: “The road to Net Zero has got to be something that happens and improves over a period of time to get to a point. That won’t be done by any one organisation, that has to be done by a number of organisations consulting, coming together, applying their specialist technologies, their skills and expertise.”

Reviewing approaches to upgrading equipment for energy efficiency, cold chain academic Professor Judith Evans said: “Ultimately, for super-efficient stores you probably have to look at new stores but there’s a lot you can do with the old stores.” Star Refrigeration’s Dermot Cotter emphasised the importance of considering the long-term when buying new equipment: “Decisions you’re making today have massive ramifications on getting to net zero.”

The panel’s discussions gave the sense of an energy efficiency turning point for the cold chain thanks to technological innovation. Styne Refrigeration’s Clive Thornley explained that while they’ve not been widely taken up for a variety of reasons, the technologies to reduce the power input into a cold store by a dramatic amount is available now. He added: “They have changed the way that cold store operators are starting to think, and we are seeing real evidence of that.”

Dermot Cotter also pointed out that the driver for energy efficiency in the cold chain is shifting, with the soaring cost of electricity prompting action rather than Government needing to drive the change. Professor Judith Evans agreed: “Where Government could have an impact is, we can put as many wind farms and solar panels up as we want but we have to look at how we use that energy and we have to have some storage and that’s a national issue.”

The focus changed to use of data and standards to take control of energy costs for the afternoon’s Energy Zone panel discussion.

BSI’s Murray Sayce described the ‘Energy Standards Ecosystem’, including ISO 50001 for Energy Management and the SME-suitable ISO 50005, which he described as: “A practical, low-cost guided pathway to saving energy, money, and carbon.”

Standards such as these are likely to become increasingly important for cold storage operators, with Jacobs’ Claire Chaffer pointing out that in the hoped-for continuation of the Climate Change Agreements, “there is very likely to be a requirement to have a mandatory energy management system in place, certainly for larger sites.”

The panel agreed on the multiple benefits of submetering. Talking about the business’ older cold store buildings, Reed Boardall’s Andrew Baldwin said: “We took the decision many years ago to actually retrofit the meters at a cost because we saw a huge benefit in doing so, and it’s paid dividends. We’ve had good data that’s allowed us to run efficiently. But it’s all well and good harvesting all this data, unless you have partners who you trust to be able to analyse that data and do something worthy with it.”

Star Refrigeration’s Andy Pearson discussed how good data and forecasting can help with decisions about changes, as well as picking up early on maintenance issues. He summed up: “We used to go round with a small flashlight to look for these problems, we’ve now got a gigantic searchlight and we’re really shining a bright light onto the darkest recesses of the plant, and its amazing what it picks up when you do that.”

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