Promote energy savings and efficiency in refrigeration systems

We are experiencing times of raised awareness in terms of energy savings, with measures that are consider necessary for some and populist by others.

Measures like not wearing a tie, a dress coat or even considering going to work naked (which would at least be fun), or especially the recent energy savings and efficiency measures approved in BOE on 2/08/22, which modifies the temperature and humidity set points and imposes measures requiring the installation of barriers in the form of air conditioning doors, are a magnificent opportunity for the sector to set the example by supporting the ambitious 15% reduction goal that has been set by Europe, without needing to modify existing regulations.

Savings measures, although valid for raising public awareness, will not actually achieve much more than that… Why? Because, as we already know, most of the energy that is consumed is not done so in air conditioning, but in cooling (processes aimed at keeping perishable goods in optimum conditions for consumption).

I will provide you with two key bits of information:


El 60% of the energy consumed by a supermarket is attributed to refrigeration systems,


with air conditioning accounting for less than 25%

We see similar numbers in cafeterias, restaurants, hotels, shopping centres with food sales, etc.

Average energy savings of 15% can be achieved with the systems that are currently installed. 

Does this seem too little? Let me break it down for you:

On average a supermarket spends 80,000 Euro per year on energy used for refrigeration… therefore, considering we have 23,000 supermarkets registered in Spain, the savings potential is more than 275 million Euro EACH YEAR, EVERY YEAR…only in the supermarkets sector.

Strike with thy rod while thou beg to thy God

The solution to energy problems and environmental pollution does not reside solely on macro measures implemented by governments to increase or at least guarantee the supply. It is in the hands of every business owner, whether they own just one or a thousand refrigeration units, and it entails selecting the essential and necessary technology to consume as little as possible by controlling its settings when operate your business as usual. Can we imagine ourselves driving with a paper map across our lap to reach our destination? Likewise, to control the energy and consume only what is necessary without it affecting critical processes of our operation, we need technology that is efficient and control tools so we can “know where we are headed”.

Out of sight…out of mind (and…you are headed for disaster)

Without a proper control and monitoring of your refrigeration/freezing units, your electrical consumption, their charging and coolant leaks and their impact in €, the greater the sales, the greater the losses.

In an article I read yesterday about HORECA, SMEs where said to be experiencing an illusion because their profits had notably increased but were still losing money (due to increased costs; primarily energy costs). Increased energy costs (affecting business owners) means that businesses, industries, and refrigeration service installations will need to do what is necessary, as they did under “normal” energy supply conditions, to make money and ensure the viability and profitability of their businesses.

Where there’s a will, there’s way

There is no need to apply extraordinary measures that modify the settings of refrigeration systems in Spain; we are already the most regulated and stringent country, we simply need to use the technologies that are currently available, based on digitization, to help reach the 15% goal.

Sufficient, simple, and accessible technology is available to make our systems more efficient and improve the consumption of cold installation in a manner that is proportionate to the improvements that are obtained.

Why are these measures not implemented? the simple answer is that the people paying the bills are not aware of the potential savings that are available because they are not receiving information about it. Proposing measures that reveal permanent inefficiencies is not easy. It’s not easy but it’s necessary.

Pedro and the Wolf

We have confused ecology with an idyllically environmentally friendly world. “Ecology is the branch of biology that studies organisms and their relationship with the environment”. Saving energy is not a necessary condition for having a better planet, it is an essential condition to prevent destroying the one we currently have Does anyone doubt we are experiencing higher sea levels, temperatures, increased storms… and does anyone doubt that the solution is in the hands of human beings? Consuming energy we DON’T HAVE is not a desirable situation, it is a necessary condition to ensure the survival of our children.

A list of inefficient energy sources we must act on is provided below.

We have a responsibility that goes beyond our generation and our business.

Let’s work together for a better future.

José Luis Bescós

Vice President and CEO of AKO Group

Tel. : (+34) 938 142 700

List of inefficient energy Sources in refrigeration systems and their possible contribution in %:

  • Inadequate set-point (set temperature value) in services: the set points of the services are by the most part regulated by regulations and laws.  The truth is that this set point is in many instances inadequate due to a bad initial calculation of the parameters, which remains over time or a change in the use of the service in terms of the type of product that has not been considered in the regulation.  One degree lower in the set point could translate to an energy savings of 3%.
  • Doors management: as in the approved measures, a poor management of the opening and closing of doors is probably the greatest source of wasted energy, which can account for as much as 50%.  In addition to implementing the mechanisms that are already being regulated such as curtains for cold rooms, doors for cabinets, display cabinets and linear display counters, the way in which personnel use these systems is essential for these mechanisms to have an effect. This practice is often timing the cause of excessive ice formation inside the cold room caused by humidity, thus resulting in a greater energy consumption, higher maintenance costs and possible safety risks.
  • Oversized defrosting: as a matter of caution, to prevent blocking evaporators and associated reactive maintenance calls or even due to our own ignorance, we tend to calculate more defrosting than what is necessary. In fact, this is usually a parameter set for life that is not normally reviewed.  Defrosting may generate up to 60% of the energy consumption of the TCO of the cold room and directly impacts the % of time the product is stored at the required temperature range, in addition to subjecting the system to mechanical and thermal stress, which may significantly shorten its service life.
  • Operation of the refrigeration system not adapted to the operating hours of the establishment: not adapting production to the demand based on the operating hours of the installation is another source of energy inefficiency that could account for up to 20%. Services operating without product, maintaining the same system operating parameters 24h a day, 7 days a week, not placing services in stand-by, etc.
  • Coolant gas charge level: leaks, but especially micro-leaks of gas, causes an overconsumption of 15% in refrigeration units with a gas charge level at 80%.  This is a condition that occurs in practically all existing refrigeration systems.
  • Monitoring of the installations: most installations are not equipped with monitoring systems that provide information in real time and historical data of the refrigeration system that allow taking measurements and making decisions.  Many installations are equipped with a control and registry system that is not connected. Other installations do have these systems, but they are turned off and those that have them and are turned on, are not paid attention to.  Without a monitoring system, all the mentioned points are amplified, making the refrigeration consumption much higher than what is necessary, and energy is being wasted.
    • Having the ability to operate the installation remotely and automatically as well as the capability of analysing information and notifying any deviations that allow acting and making decisions in real time is essential.  In conclusion, what we need to do is digitise refrigeration installations to have data in real time as well as the ability to operate remotely. Having these tool available is as important as ensuring these tools are used.   With this first level of measures, the savings that can be initially achieved are greater than those marked by the EU.  But the most important thing is for these savings, thanks to the implementation of measures, to be maintained over time and prevent committing the same errors mentioned above.