The North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council, a 501(c)(3) environmental group, has secured $880,000 in funding support for natural refrigerant grocery projects through its Aggregated Incentives Program Pilot. The council is working in partnership with the grocery industry to advance climate-friendly natural refrigerants.
“We launched the AIP program to support grocers facing increasing regulatory pressure to transition away from HFC refrigerants,” said Danielle Wright, NASRC executive director. “Incentives have the power to offset cost premiums and make natural refrigerants a feasible business choice for grocers.”
Launched in 2020, NASRC’s AIP Pilot was a first-of-its-kind, no cost platform through which NASRC coordinated incentive funding for natural refrigerant projects in California grocery stores. The pilot was designed to bolster the California Air Resources Board F-gas Reduction Incentive Program, which was established to support the transition to climate-friendly refrigerants resulting from CARB’s HFC reduction measures that take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
“NASRC’s assistance was critical in obtaining the FRIP funding,” said Jay Schick, refrigeration and HVAC buyer at Costco, a FRIP awardee and AIP Pilot participant. “We hope to see the program grow in the future as this is key to accelerating our transition from HFC refrigerants.”
FRIP is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities. FRIP was established to address the fact that upfront costs remain a significant hurdle for grocers to transition to low global warming potential refrigerants.
Recently, CARB awarded FRIP grants to 15 grocery projects across California, 12 of which were funded through the NASRC AIP Pilot and represented $880,000 of the total $1 million awarded. The projects funded through the AIP Pilot will use climate-friendly natural refrigerants with near-zero GWP, such as CO2 and propane.
The grants will support innovative projects, including partial transitions to natural refrigerants in four existing Whole Foods Market facilities. Because natural refrigerants are not a “drop-in” solution, they require a full system replacement rather than a simple gas retrofit, representing a much greater challenge for grocers.
“There’s no straightforward solution for replacing HFC equipment,” said Mike Ellinger, principal program manager of engineering, compliance and sustainability at Whole Foods Market. “The FRIP funding will allow us to test several innovative approaches, and the results will inform our strategy for existing stores in the future.”
Aldi, another national chain grocer, received awards for seven projects through the AIP Pilot, four of which are located in disadvantaged communities that are disproportionately impacted by the changing climate.
“The funding Aldi receives through FRIP supports our continued dedication to natural refrigerant technology,” said Dan Gavin, Aldi VP of national real estate. “At Aldi, we continue to explore new ways to lower our carbon footprint, and we are particularly excited about the energy data we will receive from this outstanding program.”
In addition to the grants, FRIP awardees will participate in data sharing and service workforce development activities, further addressing barriers that are slowing the adoption of natural refrigerants in the U.S. NASRC is supporting the implementation of these activities as part of its AIP Pilot.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the FRIP funding was not renewed in the California 2021 fiscal year budget. NASRC is advocating for the program to receive additional funding in the future to support full or partial system replacements in existing stores. There will be opportunities to submit comments in support of renewed FRIP funding later this year, but in the meantime NASRC is thinking bigger.
“Our goal with the pilot was always to expand beyond California,” said Wright. “Given the upcoming federal HFC phasedown, there is a need for national funding support to aid the transition. That’s where we’re looking next.”