Incentive Program Adds $880K for Natural Refrigerant Use by California Grocers

Several food retailers participate in a pilot program to transition to eco-friendlier refrigerants
Lynn Petrak
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 Incentive Program Adds $880K for Natural Refrigerant Use by California Grocers
A new grant helps fund California grocers' move to environmentally-friendlier refrigerants

Earth Day may be over, but the groundswell of sustainability efforts across the food chain continues. As refrigerants have become a focal point for reducing carbon footprints, the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC) has secured $880,000 in funding for natural refrigerant grocery projects in California. Grocers participating in the program will use eco-friendlier refrigerants with near-zero GWP, such as CO2 and propane.

The projects are part of NASRC’s Aggregated Incentives Program Pilot (AIP), a no-cost platform created to support grocers moving away from hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. The AIP also aims to boost F-gas Reduction Incentive Program (FRIP) from the California Air Resources Board. The board’s HFC reduction measures go into effect on Jan 1, 2022.

“Incentives have the power to offset cost premiums and make natural refrigerants a feasible business choice for grocers,” explained Danielle Wright, NASRC executive director.

Whole Foods is one pilot participant, using grants to support partial transitions of natural refrigerants in four of its existing facilities. “There’s no straightforward solution for replacing HFC equipment,” said Mike Ellinger, principal program manager of engineering, compliance and sustainability at Whole Foods. “The FRIP funding will allow us to test several innovative approaches and the results will inform our strategy for existing stores in the future.”

Aldi U.S. has seven projects within the pilot, four of which are located in disadvantaged communities. "We continue to explore new ways to lower our carbon footprint, and we are particularly excited about the energy data we will receive from this outstanding program.” said Dan Gavin, Aldi's president of national real estate.

Although the pilot is a West Coast program for now, NASRC has a goal to expand beyond California, according to Wright.

NASRC is a 501(c)(3) environmental nonprofit working in partnership with the grocery refrigeration industry to advance climate-friendly natural refrigerants and reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by traditional refrigerants. The organization works with stakeholders from across the grocery refrigeration industry, including over 38,000 food retail locations, to eliminate the barriers preventing the adoption of natural refrigerants.

Whole Foods has more than 500 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The grocer is No. 24 on The PG 100 list, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on PG’s list. With more than 2,000 stores across 37 states, Aldi U.S. is No. 26 on The PG 100. 

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