North America

New California Air Resources Board Proposal to Convert Supermarkets

The California Air resources Board (CARB) has announced a new proposal requiring supermarkets with refrigeration systems containing more than 50lbs (22.7kg) of refrigerant to convert to lower GWP options.

The CARB proposal, presented at a workshop on January 30 in Sacramento, California (U.S.) outlines two options for local supermarkets to comply with. The first option is to reduce the company-wide average refrigerant GWP to 1,400 by 2030. The second is to reduce their baseline refrigerant GHG potential by 55%. Larger companies with more than 20 stores will also have to meet interim targets in 2026.

The new proposal is part of a larger regulatory package aimed at enabling California to meet strict HFC-reduction targets as outlined in the SB 1383 bill, according to a blog on the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)’s website.

The EIA encouraged Californian retailers to adopt these goals on a voluntary basis in 2019, estimating that an average 50% reduction of refrigerant GWP would reduce the state’s annual emissions by more than 22 million metric tons of CO2e. That is the equivalent of planting 140,000 football fields worth of new forests every year, according to the EIA.

However, complying with this new regulation will not be enough in the long run. “Supermarket’s [should] beware that 1,400 GWP refrigerants will need to be replaced again in the near term,” said Christina Starr, EIA Climate Policy Analyst.

“So, avoid paying for a ‘double whammy’ transition by developing a strategy to leapfrog transitional refrigerants and rely mainly on conversions to ultra-low GWP solutions.”

EIA suggests that supermarkets could achieve the goals by replacing 5-7% of their existing systems with ultra-low GWP refrigerants each year. Estimating the average lifespan of a supermarket refrigeration system at 20 years, this is barely more than the normal replacement rates anyway, according to EIA.

“The proposed schedule for meeting this conversion is likely to be accelerated over time, so a strategy centered primarily on adopting ‘future proof’ alternatives makes even better business sense for compliance with this new proposal,” according to Starr.

The remainder of CARB’s larger regulatory proposal, which is scheduled to be finished this summer, remains mostly unchanged. Refrigerant GWP limits will be <150 for new stationary refrigeration systems starting in 2022, and <750 for new residential and commercial air conditioning starting in 2023.

F-Gas Reduction Incentive Program

During the Sacramento workshop, CARB also announced an F-Gas Reduction Incentive Program (FRIP), to be launched this summer. This will also focus on supermarkets and includes funding for “innovative or ultra-low GWP solutions,” and money for “conventional retrofits to transitional 1,400 GWP refrigerants,” according to the EIA.

This strategy of using trade funds to incentivize cheap 1,400 GWP refrigerants “runs contrary to California’s climate leadership role,” said Starr, before adding that “stakeholders should call for the program to prioritize projects that help overcome market hurdles for adopting the lowest GWP solutions that will maximize emission reductions.”

The FRIP proposal is open for feedback until March 15. The draft guidelines for the program will be released in April, and it is scheduled to open for applications this summer.