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James Harman looks at how to marry the twin aims of shopper comfort and energy efficiency

As we approach the warmer months, retailers should be thinking about their in-store air conditioning systems and whether they're up to the task of keeping shoppers cool in another hot UK summer.

But in addition to providing a comfortable shopping experience, energy efficiency and carbon reduction should also be top priorities when looking at how air conditioning systems perform.

Many of the UK's largest retailers have embarked on the Net Zero path, and cooling systems can be significant energy users.

Advanced air conditioning systems can provide both the comfort customers want and help reduce energy and carbon emissions.

Retrofitting existing systems, or installing new ones with the latest technology, can help retailers to achieve their sustainability goals.

Technologies and techniques can help you reduce your carbon footprint by understanding how energy is used in your building

JamesHarman James Harman Business Development Manager for the Corporate Team

Retail targets

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), whose members include the UK’s biggest retailers, has set a target of getting the whole of the UK retail industry and its supply chains to Net Zero by 2040.

It’s an enormous task, and the BRC established milestones along the way to that end date. These milestones include ensuring that all buildings are powered by renewable energy by 2025, with 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

Cutting back on energy waste is a vital part of using renewables - whether on-site generated or sustainably sourced.

Lowering energy use in stores and across retail portfolios brings those targets one step closer, making them more achievable - not just for the retail sector but for the whole of the UK.

This is similar to creating a budget for a household, cutting back on unnecessary expenses to make room for more essential items.

By reducing energy waste, retailers can free up the budget to invest in more sustainable energy sources, helping to move the UK closer to its renewable energy goals.

F Gas Regulations

Another compelling reason to look at air conditioning equipment around the building is the changing F Gas Regulations.

The European Union has developed the F Gas Regulations to phase down the use of fluorinated (F) gases in its member countries.

The regulations focus on the most common type of F gas, HFCs.

Retailers should review the refrigerants used in their air conditioning systems, as some may become challenging to access.

New air conditioning systems that use less refrigerant can reduce the carbon footprint and maintenance costs.

Reducing energy costs

It's safe to say that in 2023, rising energy costs will also impact the UK retail sector.

As a result, energy management is now a new profit centre for retailers.

Investing in new equipment that saves energy or operating existing systems more efficiently has a faster payback period.

As a result, energy efficiency measures are becoming an integral part of business strategies for UK retailers, with energy management now seen as a critical area for financial returns.

5 key steps

So, how can you ensure your air conditioning systems are optimised for energy efficiency? Here are five steps to consider:

  • Step 1: Review the heating and cooling equipment in your building to establish its current state, age, and servicing/replacement requirements.
  • Step 2: Check if your equipment functions correctly and if maintenance teams optimise its performance. You may need to renew an older air conditioning system or switch to low-carbon technologies such as heat pumps.
  • Step 3: Prioritise investments in upgraded equipment based on what's essential for your business. You can involve staff in energy-saving efforts and inform occupants of building energy use. Building controls can also save energy and money.
  • Step 4: Keep track of energy use by knowing where your energy meters are and collecting data over time. This can help you spot unexpected changes that could indicate equipment performance deterioration.
  • Step 5: Appoint a person or team to collect and collate energy data, including high-level management, to ensure buy-in. Regular physical inspections of buildings are recommended, focusing on energy efficiency and carbon savings.

Decarbonising your building

Technologies and techniques that can help you reduce your carbon footprint and enhance energy efficiency include understanding how energy is used in your building. They also include heat pumps and refrigerants with a lower carbon footprint.

In conclusion, reducing your carbon footprint and enhancing energy efficiency to tackle climate change are essential as a retailer.

Doing so demonstrates your commitment to sustainability and social issues, including carbon footprint and energy use. This can also help attract customers who are increasingly conscious of their environmental impact.

Moreover, energy-efficient practices can help reduce operating costs, leading to increased profitability. The time and effort spent examining cooling system performance will pay dividends for smart retailers.

You can find further practical tips and advice in a free publication produced jointly by Mitsubishi Electric and the British Retail Consortium: A Step by Step Guide to Energy Efficiency and Carbon Reduction in the Retail Sector.

James Harman, is a Business Development Manager for the Corporate Team