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Beyond Saving: What’s Next in Supermarket Power Management?

JamesJackson_Blog_Image James Jackson | Business Development Manager
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Last fall, a gathering of food retailers, industry professionals and energy experts converged in Houston for our latest E360 Forum. This daylong event was packed with the latest news, views and best practices on hot-button industry issues: regulations, emerging technologies and more.

Matt Smith, project manager for San Diego Gas & Electric’s Emerging Technologies Group, and I explored fresh ideas on what the future holds for supermarket power management. What follows are just a few of our observations.

Future of lighting rebates dim

Utility incentive programs for food retailers, in all markets, are changing. Lighting upgrades and retrofits fueled by rebate incentives were once low-hanging fruit for commercial and industrial consumers alike. However, laborious rebate application processes have contributed to waning interest and participation — especially among food retailers. Policy and regulations have also had an impact. As CFL and LED technologies become standard, rebates are no longer seen as necessary to incentivize adoption and won’t help utilities reach their energy-savings targets. Now energy providers are looking for other more innovative and targeted ways to incentivize efficiency.

Collaboration key to more customer-centric incentives

Admittedly, supermarkets are an underserved market for utility companies. There are simply not a lot of programs designed with the distinct needs of grocery retailers in mind. However, Matt thinks this is changing.

“We’re moving toward a more vertical approach on how we run programs in the sense that we’re serving a customer segment rather than a [category] like refrigeration … That will lead to programs that are better suited for specific customer segments like supermarkets or convenience stores.”

Matt went on to say that utilities want to hear from food retailers. They welcome the opportunities to connect and collaborate — either directly or virtually. Many offer cooperative bodies, online forums and other ways to engage. In California, utilities and other energy professionals have created the Emerging Technologies Coordinating Council (www.etcc-ca.com) as way to collaborate, develop and facilitate new and emerging technologies. Other regions offer similar resources and channels.

Pay-for-performance programs offer opportunities for efficiency and innovation

Pay-for-performance programs are another relatively recent energy-efficiency trend — one that doesn’t rely on rebates or other incentive-based equipment purchases. It allows participants to identify various energy-saving measures. Payments are made over time and are based on actual energy savings measured at the meter.

The beauty of pay-for-performance programs is that they can offer an integrated, more holistic approach to energy efficiency. Savings can come from building retrofits and equipment upgrades as well as from behavioral or operational and maintenance activities. These programs also shift the responsibility for energy savings from the utilities to energy-efficiency project implementers — and can be real incubators for innovation, efficiency and new technologies. Less prescriptive and more proactive, they offer greater opportunity for collaboration and invention.

Power markets and effective demand management

Many utilities are incentivizing commercial and industrial customers to participate in demand management/demand response programs. These are developed to cut electric consumption during peak times of the day when electricity is in high demand. Effective demand management rewards customers who can conserve when the grid is taxed the most. While a proven practice in other industries and abroad, these programs are not commonly employed among food retailers in the U.S., even though the opportunities and technologies are available.

The high usage of electricity by supermarkets makes it very attractive to participate in these programs. However, reliability and flexibility in a supermarket’s HVACR and energy requirements are absolutely essential for success. Technologies like today’s smart refrigeration systems and thermal storage are ways to optimize thermal potential by shifting electricity usage at expensive times to lower-rate periods.

More grocery retailers of today are looking hard at current HVACR systems and exploring strategies and technologies to shift energy consumption without compromising food safety. We’re excited about the possibilities.

As I shared, “Demand management is becoming a really big deal using supermarkets. I use the term ‘virtual power plant’ pretty easily in this conversation. If you’ve got a flexible store and can provide thermal storage, you could actually use that store as a virtual asset for the utility. [It creates] a kind of push and pull with the power demand … All this stuff is extremely exciting, especially in this segment or business.”

Demand management programs and today’s power markets represent a real opportunity to generate revenue by using thermal capacity, transforming your energy-eating equipment into an energy asset.

To learn more about any of these programs and the emerging technologies that are driving them, watch the full E360 Forum presentation.

Commercial Refrigeration Industry Prepares for Next Generation of Refrigerants

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The commercial refrigeration industry is at a crossroads. In one direction, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to ban many commonly used refrigerants in favor of low-GWP alternatives. In the other direction, the Department of Energy (DOE) is mandating significant reductions in energy consumption for reach-ins, walk-ins and ice makers by 2017. If that wasn’t challenging enough, the two regulations at times conflict — with the DOE’s new standards based on the EPA’s delisted refrigerants.

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MAKING SENSE of Embedded Electronics in HVACR Equipment

While the prevalence of electronics continues to expand into nearly every aspect of our lives, the refrigeration and air conditioning industries have been slow to embed electronics in HVACR equipment. Unfortunately, the primary reasons for this reluctance can be attributed to a lack of awareness and education about the promise of electronically enabled systems.

For many OEMs, there is a fair amount of confusion surrounding the operation, maintenance and repair-ability of systems with embedded electronics. And among the consumer base, there’s a general misunderstanding about the value that electronics bring versus their perceived risks and costs.

Our next MAKING SENSE webinar will address these apprehensions and make a compelling case for electronic connectivity and system communications in HVACR equipment. Join us via webinar or in the booth at the 2015 AHR Expo on January 26 in Chicago, as we explore the potential of electronics and facilitate a panel discussion from Emerson’s lecture area in their booth, #5010, from 2–3 p.m. CST.

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In this complimentary webinar, we’ll explore the many advantages of embedded electronics, including:

  • Accurately diagnoses system problems the first time
  • Limits misdiagnosis and call-backs
  • Establishes improved maintenance contracts through better communications
  • Increases productivity through prognostics that identify potential failure points
  • Improves OEM installation verification and subsequent warranty issues

In an industry faced with disruptive equipment failures, a declining number of qualified technicians and increased service costs, we think it’s time to re-evaluate the many benefits of embedded electronics. With their tremendous untapped potential, electronics hold the promise of ushering in a new era of reliability in HVACR equipment.

The webinar will be led by Mike Murphy of The NEWS and include a list of distinguished panelists from a cross-section of our industry, including: John Wallace of Emerson Climate Technologies, Randall Amerine from AT&T, Paul Stalknecht of ACCA and George Hernandez from the U.S. Department of Energy.

We hope you’ll join us via webinar or in the booth on January 26 from 2–3 p.m. CST from the AHR Expo show as we are making sense of embedded electronics.

Learn more and register by visiting our website at: EmersonClimate.com/MakingSenseWebinars

Improving the Bottom Line Through Energy Efficiency

Too often, commercial refrigeration operators decide not to upgrade the condensing units used on their walk-in coolers or freezers. The condensing units they’ve been using for years (or decades) are getting the job done, and the initial cost of upgrading equipment seems like an unsafe investment. Often, operators ask themselves: “Will I really see a return on this investment, and how long will it take before it starts to make money for me?” Both are valid questions.

The good news is that condensing unit technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace. And, with these advancements, ROI is achievable sooner than most operators can imagine. The Copeland Scroll™ Outdoor Condensing Unit (XJ Series) for commercial refrigeration is a perfect example. It combines the latest Copeland Scroll compressor technology, variable speed fan motor control, large condenser coils, and a high-efficiency fan blade to deliver up to 40 percent higher annual energy efficiency when compared to standard industry offerings. In fact, customers can typically expect an upgrade payback of less than one year based on energy savings alone.

In addition, each Copeland Scroll Outdoor Condensing Unit is equipped with standard on-board CoreSense™ diagnostics that provide field technicians with key information to quickly and accurately troubleshoot system issues, lower maintenance costs and eliminate nuisance service calls. Its built-in compressor protection capabilities also help to extend equipment life.

The other good news is that many utility companies are offering rebates for installing energy-efficient equipment, which helps to significantly offset your initial investment.

So my message to you is a simple one: take the plunge. If you choose the right equipment, your investment could start adding dollars to your bottom line.

To discover how much you could save on utility costs, check out our XJ Series Annual Calculator.

Craig Raney
Director of Marketing, Refrigeration
Emerson Climate Technologies

Webinar Wrap-Up: Four Ways Case Controls Can Achieve Cost Savings

I recently presented a Making Sense webinar with my colleague Seth Hoehn, where we explored the many advantages of shifting controls from the refrigeration rack to the case through the use of case controls and electronic expansion valve (EXV) technologies. Case controls can precisely monitor conditions in real time and offer dramatically improved operational and energy efficiencies, especially when coupled with the use of an EXV. At the end of the day, we detailed four ways that first costs and ongoing savings can be achieved through shifting controls from the refrigeration rack to the case.

  1. Electrical installation. A case control architecture provides savings through reduced field wiring: Up to 30 percent reduction in branch feeder wiring; potential elimination of circuit panels and breakers; elimination of line and low voltage control home runs to the rack; simplified connections at the case; and the installation benefits of OEM factory wiring.
  2. Piping and refrigerant. Shifting from individual liquid and suction lines at the rack to a loop system with common liquid and suction lines at the case reduces pipes, fittings, insulation, hangers and labor — and the potential for refrigerant leakage. The simplified piping results in material savings of up to 50 percent, and refrigerant charge reduction of 10 percent or more. This architecture also enables temperature and rack control at the case itself.
  3. Maintenance and leak reduction. Another benefit of the case control architecture is a reduction in commissioning/startup time by two to three days. This is due to quicker leak checks, reduced refrigerant charge, and not having to set superheat (since it is automated via electronics). The persistent data that’s available from the electronic controls and EXVs eliminates the need for seasonal maintenance and adjustments of mechanical TXVs, while providing “eyes into the system” for ongoing, remote visibility and diagnostics.
  4. Ongoing energy savings. The precise control enabled at the case level reduces energy used at the evaporator, eliminating the pressure drops and other parasitic losses associated with traditional systems. Case controls with EXVs allow for low condensing operation, which significantly reduce energy at the rack through continuous, automatic superheat regulation. Once installed, a case control system promises to deliver significant energy savings for years.

We often hear that a barrier to utilization of case controls and EXVs is the investment required to get started. But, as we’ve shown, equipment costs are quickly offset by the savings. When you consider the reduction in first costs — from simplified installation of electrical distribution and piping systems to faster startup times — and the ongoing energy and maintenance savings that can be realized annually, we feel there’s a compelling case to use case controls and electronic expansion valves.

Our next webinar will be presented live from the AHR Expo show floor in New York City on January 21, 2014 — details coming soon! If you want to view any of our previous Making Sense webinars, they are available for download on our website at www.emersonclimate.com/makingsensewebinars.

John Wallace
Director of Product Management, Retail Solutions
Emerson Climate Technologies

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