South Africa's supermarkets are using climate-friendly refrigerants

Racks and cooling units in a supermarket

Picture: GIZ

Fluorinated refrigerants such as CFCs and HCFCs that damage the ozone layer are still in use in many developing and emerging countries, although other refrigerants that are less harmful to the climate are available. With the help of an International Climate Initiative (ICI) project, South Africa's largest nationwide supermarket chain Pick'n Pay is demonstrating that there are viable alternatives.

The project, which is being carried out by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, is supporting Pick'n Pay in replacing its inefficient air conditioning and refrigeration systems that use fluorinated, ozone-depleting refrigerants with modern, low-energy systems that run on natural refrigerants such as such as hydrocarbon, ammonia or carbon dioxide. Two of the supermarket's branches in Cape Town and Gauteng have already switched to environmentally friendly, low-energy refrigeration technology. The success can be clearly measured: one of the demonstration supermarkets uses 17 % less energy than conventional supermarkets, the other 24 % less. Consumption of refrigerants is also falling, which in turn is significantly lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions - in the first supermarket by about 372 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year and in the other by 465 tonnes. 

Lower energy consumption means lower costs and Pick'n Pay is reaping the benefits. This has led the supermarket chain to adapt its corporate and environmental policies so that all its new supermarkets will use natural refrigerants. Other supermarket chains in the region have taken note and have also begun to use this innovative technology. In this way, the project is demonstrating that switching to natural refrigerants and modern, low-energy technology is feasible and makes economic sense.