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Supermarkets look to take up energy challenge

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In a sense, supermarkets are the ideal test bed for energy efficiency and carbon reduction. High levels of energy needed for lighting and refrigeration, plus long and complex supply chains mean there’s a lot of costs to save and a lot of carbon to reduce if this staple industry is to call itself 'sustainable'.

Indeed, in terms of emissions and estate sizes,  we made the parallel between Sainsbury’s and the Church of England on the blog earlier this year– and noting similar efforts in terms of renewable energy.

Booming European heavyweights Lidl and Aldi are also making their mark. Lidl is having a multi-million pound energy efficiency revamp of their refrigeration systems, while their rival is looking at its entire roster of UK stores in pursuit of finding where to make the biggest savings.

Enormous savings are to be found too in supermarkets drastically improving waste and recycling. A recent WRAP study put the value of food and packaging waste at £6.9billion in the grocery sector. That’s both an opportunity for stores to make savings, and for those with the technical know-how to do the re-use end of the equation the chance to really get a market foothold. You’d also like to think that some of those savings could be passed on to the squeezed consumer.

LED lighting is set to find a increasing home in supermarkets. The energy savings are significant, and what is also being found is that anecdotal reports by the people basking in their light are quite similar to those we found in our Lit Up report on LEDs in social housing. A study has found that nearly 90 per cent of people preferred LEDs to other light sources when on full power in freezer units.

Of course, as with any industry trying to clean up their act, there needs to be case studies of the very best that can be achieved, so there is that benchmark to aim for. In the case of supermarkets, there certainly is that.

The REMA 1000 features deep geothermal energy, recycled refrigerator heat, maximised use of natural light and even makes use of melting snow. It’s not so much of a surprise that this industry test-bed is in Norway, a country in a region that pops up a lot in the world of energy innovation. The fact that engineers are enthusiastic about the new model store also is not such a shock. Refrigeration specialist, Frede Schmidt, who is working on the store, says:

In the view of an engineer specialized in refrigeration, this is a dream project because it covers all parts of energy – cooling, heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Creating the solution for REMA 1000 is a dream come true for engineers, and an extremely exciting project.”

It’s nice to see people enjoying their work. It will be interesting to see how long it will take for the jump from technical perfection to practical application in a grocery store near you.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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