It all started in 2010, when Chief Executive officer of Heineken worldwide, Jean-François van Boxmeer instructed a search for a way to reduce power consumption in commercial beer refrigeration. Understandably so, the past few decades have seen Sunshine Coast and worldwide interest in carbon footprint of everything pulled into question, the roles that natural refrigerants can play in the minimisation of this effect has been mulled over time and time again.
Graeme Houghton, Heineken explained the move Heineken were making at the time, “We adopted hydrocarbons for two reasons – one, because they help to deliver the energy efficiency that we want; and two, because of their significantly lower GWP.” He said.
At the beginning of the implementation of this move into introduction of hydrocarbons in commercial fridges by HEINEKEN, Hans Donker of Fridges and Draught Beer Equipment, a Global Category Buyer, HEINEKEN Global Procurement, noted the direct nature of the request, he said “I got the briefing, ‘you need to buy green fridges’. That’s what we said, so I asked, ‘what’s a green fridge?’ It took them a few months to say, ‘best in class’. That wasn’t very specific,”.
Nevertheless, in little time at all, the refrigeration mechanics came up with a concept, “So we thought about it ourselves, and we said, ‘a green fridge is a fridge that has a hydrocarbon refrigerant, LED illumination, and a smart thermostat (energy management system)’,” Hans said.
It’s certainly obvious how doing so will positively affect the brand, with the recent surge in developing energy efficient and environmentally friendly ideas. “When we started, we made enquiries with our commercial fridge suppliers, asking them how many energy savings introducing hydrocarbon refrigerant, LED illumination, and a smart thermostat (energy management system) would deliver,” Donker says.
“They said, ‘if you do hydrocarbons, you’ll get 7% more efficient fridges; if you do LED, you’ll save 15%; and the energy management system gives another 15%’. That’s how it was described to us,” he explains.
The results, as predicted, were amazing,
“In that first year, we saved 30% on energy consumption,” he further added.
Green all the Way
Heineken proudly projects lowering the emissions of the current data farm by half by the year 2020, and they have taken drastic measures to ensure it is not just a proclamation. They deliver ‘green fridges’ as replacements for fridges that are called back and test fridges regularly against a set-up meter, the Heineken Energy Efficiency Index (HEEI). Also, just like Hans Donker had explained, they hold the four principles of green fridges to heart and implement it at any given opportunity. The four principles being: the use of hydrocarbon refrigerant, an energy management system, LED illumination, and energy efficient fans.
Graeme Houghton, a Global Category Leader – Commercial Equipment & Servicing, HEINEKEN Global Procurement further explains the path when he says that:
“We discovered hydrocarbons as part of our ‘Brewing a Better World’ programme. We adopted them for two reasons – one, because they help to deliver the energy efficiency that we want; and two, because of their significantly lower GWP compared to the existing refrigerants we used in our fridges,”
“So that was the pairing of it. We work with a number of cooling partners. We use an independent cooling advisory group, which helps us with the technology side of things, plus our cooling partners – the fridge manufacturers,” of course, even while doing all this, he ensured to add that the eyes of the company would always be on the delivery of the best quality beer and finest service. He insists that to do this, the infrastructure of the beer has been arranged to be delivered by the company. “In the majority of cases, we own the fridges and draught beer equipment. We place it with our customers to help them serve the perfect Heineken,” He said.
By the year 2017, nearly all the 137,818 fridges Heineken had newly bought had one or more (and in many cases all four) green features. The carbon dioxide emissions per fridge were almost half less than in 2010 (2016: 46%). Since the beginning of 2018, however, 100% of the fridges Heineken is purchasing are ‘green’.
“Because of the life-cycle of fridges, which we expect to be around about eight years, we anticipated that in order to reach our target in 2020, we needed to start immediately,” Graeme Houghton said. A long way from 2010, when the company started using hydrocarbons, however, the company won’t stop there per Houghton, “We expect that by 2020, the majority if not all our fridge population will be green, with natural refrigerants,”
The Challenge from Amsterdam
Heineken are not shying away from the fact that they can heavily impact the overall climate of many of the countries they’ve invested in.
“Cooling is a significant part of our CO2 footprint. We’ve got over a million fridges out there in the field. We’re reducing their energy consumption by half,” says Donker. “We have the power to change things. It takes time, model-by-model and area-by-area, until it becomes standard,”.
“It’s a life-cycle thing. The policy is ‘all new fridges’,” he further explains. “We buy roughly 140,000 fridges a year,” says Houghton. “All the fridges we buy are hydrocarbons. We’re on a journey. It’s about changing our entire fleet.”
“The average lifetime of our fridges is about eight years, and we’re currently about eight years in. So if you do the maths – allowing for a bit of a dropout rate, it’s probably fair to say that we have about a million fridges in the market with natural refrigerants,” he predicts.
“If you switch in good time to the refrigerant that’s here to stay, then you can still repair those fridges,” says Donker, on the other hand “if you buy a R134a fridge now, then you’ll have an issue in the years to come” when explaining how economics was the chief inspiration behind the use of Hydrocarbons. Regardless, Haughton gave insight into beer production, “It’s about deploying the right equipment in the right outlet, and applying the right technologies to make sure you’re as efficient as possible,” Houghton explains. “It’s a holistic approach.”
Heineken have made a stand with technology to strategically minimise its carbon footprint, and by engaging other fridge suppliers all around the world, they have successfully created ‘The Blade’, the newest of its draught beer creations. It uses R600a as its refrigerant and can freeze beer to temperatures as low as 2°C, while providing a beer-delivery temperature of as low as 3°C in the glass. Clearly, they have their eyes firmly on the future.
For the best performance in commercial fridges contact Vaughan and Danni at Best Refrigeration and Air Conditioning.