Supervalu Joins EPA Push for Greener Coolers

Last Updated Mar 27, 2008 4:12 PM EDT

Supervalu Inc.'s announcement that its 12 retail brands will participate in the Environmental Protection Agency's GreenChill Partnership gives a lift to the EPA's efforts to convert supermarkets to green refrigeration. Twenty-seven companies now participate in the program, including Publix, Giant Eagle, Food Lion and Whole Foods Market.

Energy ranks second only to labor as supermarkets' biggest expense. The EPA says the grocery business could save $12 million a year by switching to greener systems that also reduce global warming and cut emissions of ozone-harming hydrochlorofluorocarbon refrigerants such as freon. The program's potential effect on greenhouse gases is 1 million metric tons of carbon annually, the equivalent of taking 800,000 cars off the road.

New coolers and freezers from such manufacturers as Hussmann and Hill Phoenix, and non-ozone-depleting refrigerants from DuPont and Honeywell, promise to cut energy costs as well as reduce leakage. DuPont says older equipment can leak as much as 20 percent of its coolant charge. Among the innovations are secondary loop refrigerators, which use the natural coolant carbon dioxide, and distributed refrigeration systems, which use a smaller coolant charge and waste less energy because they're placed near display racks, rather than on the roof or in the back room.

GreenChill retail partners promise to install alternative refrigeration systems in new or remodeled stores, participate in trials and share data with equipment manufacturers and EPA. DuPont estimates there are 6 million coolers in the nation's supermarkets, restaurants and convenience stores -- many still using HCFCs.

The timing is good for Supervalu, which launched an "offensive remodeling" program to update at least 125 stores in fiscal 2008 and 165 in 2009, CEO Jeff Noddle told the Bank of America Securities consumer conference March 12. The Minneapolis firm operates more than 2,500 stores nationwide under Albertson's, Cub Foods, Shaw's, Jewel-Osco and eight other brands.

  • Lisa Everitt

    A Denver-based business writer, Lisa Everitt is a veteran of daily and weekly newspapers and trade magazines, including The Natural Foods Merchandiser, Rocky Mountain News, Inter@ctive Week, San Francisco Business Times, and the Peninsula Times Tribune.