Energy is The Key Long Term Challenge for Cold Storage


Cold storage businesses are navigating a challenging path out of lockdown fluctuations, while at the same time making preparations for possible disruption to food logistics when the Brexit transition period comes to an end on 31 December. But in the midst of this unprecedented time of change and challenge, it is clear that the defining issue for temperature-controlled storage for the next decade, and beyond, will be energy, explains Shane Brennan.

In 2019 the UK government became the first major economy to pass a net zero emissions law. This goal will no doubt be central to policy decisions across all departments for the foreseeable future, with Government demanding clear and measurable improvements in energy efficiency and reducing emissions from business and industry as well as in our homes and recreation. At the same time energy costs to continue to rise and consumers are increasingly seeking environmental responsibility from the supply chains their purchases support. 

Many cold storage businesses have been making good progress towards an energy efficient future for some time, and they are in a good position to accelerate. Any cold store business which has not yet put an energy efficiency strategy into action must act fast or risk being left behind.

The latest of our guidance publication series is a comprehensive guide to maximising energy efficiency in a cold store. Energy Efficiency in the Cold Chain is designed to help businesses formulate the best strategy for their facilities and achieve the greatest energy efficiency benefits from their investments, covering both ‘quick wins’ for swift, incremental improvements as well as longer term, high impact opportunities. It can help cold storage businesses make changes now that will bring rewards for many years to come.

The guide sets out the steps for creating an energy strategy that will help identify a business’ short, medium and long-term ambitions as well as assisting in improving financial planning and forecasting.

One of the first practical opportunities that should be considered for significant energy efficiency improvements in a cold storage facility is minimising chamber heat loads. Looking at measures relating to fabric heat gains, air infiltration through doors & openings, equipment and people, product load and lighting can have a significant impact.

Our new guide also details another practical consideration with potential for major impact: maximising operational efficiency in refrigeration systems. Refrigeration systems typically use between 60 to 85% of the energy in the temperature-controlled areas and the guide provides advice on the energy efficiency opportunities related to good maintenance, optimisation and smart monitoring and capital investment. Replacing outdated poor refrigeration control systems can reduce electrical cost by more than 10% per year.

Practical measures such as this are crucial but they are only part of the picture. The guide also explains how to assess energy usage, how to build the business case for investment in energy efficiency, and how to generate an energy efficient business culture. In a typical cold storage operation, there are often great opportunities through increasing adherence to basic policies like not leaving cold store doors open. Empowering all employees to think about the energy footprint of cold store and encouraging or rewarding those who make demonstrable efforts to promote energy saving measures can bring multiple benefits, beyond energy bill savings.

At the Forefront

The Cold Chain Federation is providing support every step of the way, both for businesses already at the forefront of energy efficient cold storage operations and for businesses needing to future-proof their approach. We are the voice of the cold chain to Government, making sure the industry’s ideas, concerns and insight are heard by politicians and policy makers alike, and we run the cold storage Climate Change Agreement which saves the industry in excess of £10 million in taxes each year. 

We have also created an active and valuable network that facilitates learning, knowledge share and discussion through resources and events like the Cold Chain Live! Towards a Net Zero Cold Chain virtual event series, a month of new publications, leader interviews and workshops taking place throughout October 2020. 

One exciting opportunity detailed in our new guide is the potential to incorporate on-site renewables, particularly solar power, wind power or Combined Heat and Power systems. Technological development is making this increasingly feasible, but as an industry we must recognise that the majority of our cold storage needs are met by older facilities and will continue to be for some time. Improving our industry’s energy performance requires action across the spectrum.

There is little question that improving energy efficiency will becoming increasingly important for businesses with cold storage facilities over the coming decade, not only to keep up with Government requirements but also to access significant commercial benefits. Making the right plans and taking considered action now will reap rewards for many years to come. Source: GCCA Guidance & Member Directory (Shane Brennan, CE of Cold Chain Federation).