Converting production of commercial refrigeration equipment in Swaziland from fluorinated to natural refrigerants

Project description

Title: Converting supermarket refrigeration systems in South Africa from F-gases to natural refrigerants
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) as part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI)
Country: South Africa
Overall term: 2008 to 2011


Supermarkets have high power demands, and some 70 per cent of their electricity consumption is used for food refrigeration and air-conditioning. South Africa’s electricity prices are rising due to high demand from the nation's rapidly growing industry and economy. At the same time, most businesses in the food retail sector still use energy-inefficient cooling technology that functions on fluorinated-gas (F-gas) refrigerants. As a result, electricity bills are high and refrigerant leakage produces highly damaging emissions that deplete the ozone layer and drive climate change.

Modern, technically mature refrigeration and air-conditioning systems are available that use natural, ozone- and climate-friendly refrigerants. Yet these systems are rarely used in South Africa because the lack of experience in handling this equipment, coupled with safety considerations about the flammability of certain natural refrigerants and the relatively high initial investment costs, are impeding dissemination of these sustainable technologies.


Two supermarkets of the Pick n Pay chain in Cape Town and Johannesburg have converted to modern refrigeration systems. They have thereby eliminated ozone- and climate-damaging emissions, and both supermarkets are profiting from lower electricity costs.

Pick n Pay counts among the leading companies in the South African retail food sector. The successful conversion and resultant cost-savings are sending a strong message to other companies and driving the dissemination of sustainable refrigeration and air-conditioning technology throughout South Africa.


The Pick n Pay chain received technical and financial support to convert two of its supermarkets to cascade cooling systems that function using ozone- and climate-friendly carbon dioxide and ammonia. The equipment was purchased from local suppliers, thereby ensuring that any potential emulators who would also like to switch to sustainable refrigeration and air-conditioning systems can easily access the technology.

To enable assessment of the project's impact, systems for monitoring emissions and electricity consumption were installed in 500 supermarkets of the Pick n Pay chain.


Two Pick n Pay supermarkets were successfully converted to cascade cooling systems. Comparative analysis of the data collected from the 500 supermarkets monitored revealed significant rises in efficiency in both supermarkets that implemented the conversion. Every year, the conversion eliminates 2,000 tons of equivalent carbon dioxide emissions (CO2e) that would otherwise be caused by leakage of ozone- and climate-damaging refrigerants from conventional refrigeration systems. What is more, the new equipment consumes between 19 and 26 per cent less power than the old systems monitored in the other supermarkets for comparison purposes.

This has demonstrated that the electricity savings pay for the investment in the modern refrigeration systems. Converting has thus been cost-effective and increased these supermarkets' profitability - facts that are now sending clear signals throughout the entire industry.

Following project completion, Pick n Pay converted the cooling systems of 25 of its supermarkets on its own initiative, of which five are operating exclusively on the natural refrigerants carbon dioxide and ammonia. Various competitors of Pick n Pay have likewise installed refrigeration systems that function using natural refrigerants.