Another case of green wash?

Gram recently released the third edition of its Green Paper, a bi-annual study of industry attitudes towards sustainability. But in a market sector where every manufacturer is claiming to be the greenest, what data is to be trusted? Catering Insight asked Gram’s managing director Glenn Roberts how dealers and distributors can separate fact from fiction.

A number of manufacturers in the industry focus a lot of their communications on energy efficiency. Is The Green Paper just another marketing tool?

Our Danish heritage means that, naturally, the ‘green’ issue has been at the heart of all we do at Gram UK for well over a decade. It is not purely an influencer on our research and development, but also on the responsibility we, as a manufacturer of energy efficient equipment, feel towards the whole foodservice industry. For that very reason, in 2008, we invested in The Green Paper, which has since become a highly anticipated bi-annual report for our customers, end-users and industry media.

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The main aim of The Green Paper is to consistently track the attitudes and behaviours of the industry and, in order to do so, the questions relate to the whole spectrum of sustainability, of which energy efficient equipment is a part, but not the whole. As an industry, it is essential that we continue to understand the barriers that end-users are facing in order to find meaningful solutions, which is why we’ll continue to invest significantly in the report.

In terms of manufacturers’ message to market, what mediums are manufacturers using to substantiate energy efficiency claims and what ones should we be taking notice of?

We cannot comment on other manufacturers’ testing, but at Gram we independently test through the Danish Technological Institute for our own internal product development. However, when taking a message to market, we would always direct people to The Carbon Trust’s Energy Technology List (ETL) which should be used as their prime procurement tool given its association with the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme sponsored by government.

To what extent should a distributor trust research or data that is published by a third party but commissioned by a manufacturer? Are there any completely independent sources that provide a totally neutral assessment of energy efficiency?

It is precisely this sort of ambiguity around the true definition of ‘independent testing’ and the confusing claims made by manufacturers that causes such uncertainty around energy-efficient equipment in the market. When manufacturers commission tests on the efficiency of their, or indeed, competitors’ equipment, there is no standardised procedure between these third party companies and therefore the results may not be carried out in a controlled way.

As with any testing process, the variables have to be controlled in order to gain accurate results. If you cannot be sure that data, particularly when it is stated as comparable, has been verified in a like-for-like — both in age or type of product — controlled and ethical way, then there is a risk that those results can be called into question. With the impending EU legislation on Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) of commercial equipment, we hope that there will be a centralised, independent testing process based on new test criteria that will become available so that we can make claims and statements from a level playing field.

How can manufacturers help distributors communicate the practicalities of not only installing energy efficient equipment but saving energy through operational behaviours?

Cost of ownership versus cost of purchase is something that distributors should be communicating to their clients. Using the ETL will help to clarify this process. Regular maintenance and servicing of all equipment is crucial to ensuring that it continues to run at its optimum performance levels for as long as possible. At Gram, we offer an unrivalled five-year parts and labour warranty on our energy efficient cabinets to the market place.

Is there anything that the market should be aware of in terms of legislation or standards that will dictate the energy efficiency of commercial equipment?

By now, distributors should be aware of the EU Ecodesign Directive which is set to shake up the import, export and sale of energy-related products within the EU. Lot 1 of the Directive, which concerns refrigeration, will come into force on January 2014. In accordance with the directive’s Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), all commercial refrigeration sold, exported or imported into the EU must comply with strict energy consumption standards. Distributors should be seriously considering the effect this will have on their business in the near future.

What makes a refrigeration appliance energy efficient?

When it comes to defining specific criteria that distributors need to be looking for when sourcing energy efficient refrigeration for end-users, there is no ‘silver bullet’ answer. However, Glenn Roberts, managing director of Gram, suggests the following key areas hold the key:

Refrigerants
Refrigerant choice can greatly affect the carbon footprint and running costs of refrigeration units. Distributors should be looking particularly at their Global Warming Potential (GWP) and Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP). Hydrocarbon refrigerants show massive improvements on GWP and ODP compared with the alternative HFCs, but they are also more efficient conductors of heat and their operating pressures are lower, meaning less stress is exerted on the cabinet, which in turn increases efficiency.

Insulation & Components
Cabinet insulation can be enhanced with the use of vacuum panels instead of foamed walls. There is also considerable development in the design of a new generation of compressors, highly efficient evaporators and condensers that will greatly improve heat rejection, ensuring that cabinets can work at their optimum level. Thicker wall insulation also helps to prevent heat loss and greatly improves internal temperature stability.

Air Circulation
Intelligent air circulation systems are integral to keeping a uniform temperature within a refrigeration unit, preventing the compressor from having to work too hard at reducing temperature peaks and troughs through a working day. As a result, the unit will consume less energy.

Intelligent Controllers
Patented intelligent controllers that efficiently and accurately measure the internal temperature stability will enable the cabinet to use energy on demand rather than working to energy-hungry set cycles.

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