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The Race to Zero – Triggering a green cooling transition

20 April 2021

From environmental regulatory pressures to Covid-19 and rising energy costs, there has never been a better time for end users to invest in green cooling technology.

After the great Covid-19, corporations and governments around the world are prioritizing climate actions in their recovery from the pandemic. Many are pursuing net zero emissions instead of pursuing business as usual.

Speaking at the United Nations Climate Week NYC on 1 October 2020, Mr. Suphachai Chearavanont’s, Chief Executive Officer of C.P. Group, spoke about the response to the United Nation’s Race to Zero carbon emission campaign: “As a leading Asian conglomerate with our core business in agri-food, C.P. Group has a role to play to reduce the agriculture sector’s carbon footprint and encourage consumers to adopt more sustainable food choices. With our commitment for net zero emissions by 2050, we aim to meet this opportunity by leveraging innovation and working closely with all our partners and stakeholders across our diverse set of businesses in the group around the world.”

He stressed the importance of technological solutions for businesses to operate more efficiently and urges other companies to lead the change at scale by saying: “neutral carbon footprint should be one of the key KPIs applied to all listed companies in all Stock Exchanges.” 

Another company which has also announced its commitment in the race for net zero is Siam Makro Plc. (Makro), under the Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group. According to Mr. Anan Watcharapongvinij, Director of Construction and Facilities Management, “Thirty to forty percent of total energy consumption comes from refrigeration systems”. Therefore, reducing emissions from its business operations is the necessary pathway to reach corporate climate ambition.

Representatives of GIZ, EGAT, ONEP and AEP (a consultancy) pose for a photo during a visit to Siam Makro Plc. (Makro), a leading supermarket chain in Thailand under the Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, which has already partially opted for natural refrigerants and is planning a pilot branch with 100% green cooling technologies. Makro has joined the race to net zero, committing to achieve zero emissions by 2030.

Makro, which has around 130 outlets across the nation, has been using more than 10,000 R290 plug-in display cases at its stores for over 14 years. For the new branches, the company is currently looking to invest in larger scale water-loop systems provided there are incentives and support from the government. Makro would be the first supermarket chain in Thailand to have fully opted for green cooling technologies, setting an example that other businesses may follow suit.

With major multinational brands either mandating or recommending the use of low-carbon-footprint equipment, market acceptance for green cooling technologies is set to grow further. Taking account of the nascent market for green cooling technologies, the Thailand Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (RAC NAMA) project has made efforts to approach leading Thai corporations to encourage wider technology adoption.

Between October and December 2020,  the RAC NAMA project and its partners held almost 20 bilateral meetings with a number of leading corporations in key sectors such as food retail, restaurants, hotels and hospitals, to increase their awareness of green cooling technologies as well as their understanding of the business sense behind their adoption.

For corporate users, equipment cost is not the only deciding factor: lifetime costs, energy cost savings, reliability, serviceability and the availability of products from multiple suppliers have a major influence on their business decisions. With more and more corporations pledging to reduce their environmental and carbon footprint, green cooling technologies are becoming an even more attractive technology option. With zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) and very low or zero global warming potential (GWP), natural refrigerant based systems also consume 5-25% less energy due to their excellent heat transfer property, leading to the development of high-quality air-conditioners that are energy efficient

With a large portion of emissions come from refrigeration and air-conditioning system and electricity usage, businesses are searching for energy-saving and climate-friendly cooling technology as part of the store strategies. With negligible Global Warming Potential (GWP) and Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP), natural refrigerant based systems also consume 5-25% less energy due to its excellent heat transfer property.

For the RAC NAMA team and its partners, discussions with corporate end-users have also helped to design the Cooling Innovation Fund, a financial facility to advance the adoption of green cooling technology that is expected to start in quarter 3 of 2021. In principal, end-users test new cooling technologies as part of smaller pilot projects, e.g. the refurbishment of a few branches, and roll them out at scale once profitability and reliability are proven. In return, end-users must pledge to roll out technology at scale if the pilot meets its performance targets.

In 2020, approximately 100,000 commercial refrigerators with green cooling technology using natural refrigerants have arrived on the Thai market, making up about a 30% market share.

The pandemic has underlined the role of the cooling industry to bring clean and efficient and sustainable technologies to the market. With major multinational corporates either mandating or advising the use of low-carbon-footprint equipment, market acceptance for green cooling technologies is set to grow further.

The Race to Zero is the international campaign for a healthy, resilient zero carbon recovery with the aim to bring together net zero commitments from cities, businesses and investors across the climate action community in the run up to COP26.

To support this transition, the Thailand RAC NAMA Project has partnered with the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP), the Department of Alternative Energy Department and Efficiency (DEDE) and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) as well as Thai industries to transfer technology and know-how on ozone and climate-friendly technology and financial support to the private sector, as well as provide policy and technical advice to relevant government agencies. The RAC NAMA Fund, a financial facility under the management of EGAT, has initiated a transformation in the Thai refrigeration and air-conditioning (RAC) sector towards the use of climate-friendly and energy-efficient cooling technologies with natural refrigerants. Through this close partnership with government and the private sector, emissions are expected to reduce by 0.94 MtCO2eq annually. The project runs from April 2016 – July 2021.