Expert witnesses from industry and academia, including group engineer at Tesco and SME sustainable refrigeration pioneers, Hubbard, Dearman and Iceotope, presented to the Birmingham Energy Institute policy commission last week to warn against the risks of apathy in refrigeration and cooling markets.

Referring to the UK government’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050, the experts said the only way this could be achieved is to adopt a systems level approach that integrates heating and cooling and seriously reconsiders the way cold energy is generated and consumed.

The Birmingham Energy Institute policy commission chaired by Lord Robin Teverson, Principal Spokesperson for Transport and former Member of the European Parliament, brings together academic experts in energy and energy policy with industry experts from a range of sectors and organisations including the Global Development Fund, National Grid and the Manufacturing Technology Centre to address the desperate need to rethink cooling provision in the UK and globally, and how to ‘do cold smarter’.

On Tuesday 30 June the commission convened at the Royal Institution to hear from expert witnesses about new technologies and innovation. Evidence was received from Tesco as well as a number of SMEs and startups pioneering new technologies to provide sustainable cooling in the food, retail and data cooling sectors, as well as the Institute of Refrigeration.

Professor Martin Freer, Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute and academic lead for the commission said:

It became clear from this session that the UK has enormous talent and expertise in energy solutions manufacturing and technology innovation but it is being stifled. We can achieve the country’s ambitious carbon reduction targets but only if we invest in these sustainable innovations - the government must take cold seriously instead of focusing solely on heating.

70% of food consumed in the UK is chilled or frozen to store and a growing population means the demand for commodities is expected to rise by around 30% over the coming decade. This puts huge pressure on energy provision and could have ruinous effects on the environment.

Robert Hurley, Group Engineering and Energy Standards Manager, Tesco, told the commission of the supermarket chain’s aspiration to become a zero carbon business by 2050. He said:

Supermarkets must take sustainable cooling solutions seriously. We will best achieve our stretching aspiration if we work with the supply base and procure not only by capital cost but also life cycle and sustainable alternatives, that could provide both economic and environmental savings in the long term.

Pat Maughan, Managing Director, Hubbard Products Ltd. told commissioners:

Leakage from refrigeration is one of our biggest pollutants. Our innovative technology can currently reduce leakage from around 20% to below 5%, with realistic engineering solutions available to eliminate leakage altogether . We need clear direction from government on where the future lies for carbon reduction priorities to provide a boost in the market and to further develop these solutions. There’s reluctance among many companies at the moment who aren’t taking the targets seriously.

Lord Robin Teverson said:

There’s significant opportunity in the UK to develop a new economic hub of innovative manufacturing and technology, as well as positioning ourselves as leaders in this field on the world stage. This will generate jobs and significant economic benefits for our country as well as important carbon reductions.

The Birmingham Energy Institute policy commission, the latest in a series of commissions from the University of Birmingham launched earlier this year to address the climate change and economic potential of a new approach to cold energy. The demand for cooling, from air conditioning and data cooling to food delivery and healthcare, is rising dramatically with growing urban populations around the world, but cold energy provision is currently highly polluting and unsustainable. The commission will continue to hear from expert witnesses over the next month and will provide a series of recommendations as part of a final report in Autumn.

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