In a highly ambitious decarbonization initiative, Danish retailer Salling Group is replacing oil and gas boilers with natural refrigerant heat pumps in 750 stores in Denmark, Germany and Poland as part of a DKR2.5 billion (US$366 million) investment in energy-efficiency technologies.

The heat pumps will most likely use propane (R290) as the refrigerant, according to Emmelie Christensen, Communication Officer at Salling Group, who stressed that the company has yet to conclude a deal with a supplier for the many R290 heat pumps.

The installation of the heat pumps is part of an effort to reduce Salling’s reliance on fossil fuels, particularly Russian gas, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has accelerated already-existing plans. 

“As part of our climate ambition, we have had a clear plan for reducing our energy consumption across the group and the three markets in which we operate,” said Salling Group’s CEO Per Bank. “Now the current energy situation with rising prices and dependence on Russia puts further pressure on the need for change, and that is why we have chosen to accelerate investments.”

The replacement of the many boilers will start immediately. The company expects the heat pump project to be finished in Denmark and Poland as soon as 2023, with Germany to follow in 2024. It will include 50 stores in Denmark, 300 in Germany and 400 stores in Poland.

Being present on three different markets with very different energy mixes has been a challenge in Salling’s efforts to achieve a climate-friendly profile. “Denmark is well on its way to a greener electricity grid, but our climate headache has always been the energy we have bought in Germany and Poland,” Bank explained. “With the reductions we are planning here, and not least the installation of solar panels for our own production of green energy, we are now taking a big step towards a fossil-free grocery trade.” Over the next six years, 570 stores and storage facilities will have solar panels installed on the roof.

The huge investment also includes replacing old refrigeration systems with new efficient CO2 (R744) refrigeration racks, and installing  LED lighting in stores that haven’t already received this upgrade. 

The combined investments will reduce the Group’s energy consumption “significantly” it said in the statement. The large investment in energy efficient technologies is also aiming to future proof the company’s operations. “By investing heavily in energy reductions here and now, we are able to run a healthy business both now and in the future,” Bank added.

Salling Group operates the Netto and Føtex supermarket chains, the Bilka hypermarket chain, and a smaller number of Salling department stores. The Group was founded in 1906 and today has more than 1,700 stores in the three countries.

Another European retailer installing R290 heat pumps in stores is the Belgium-based Colruyt Group.

“By investing heavily in energy reductions here and now, we are able to run a healthy business both now and in the future”

Per Bank, Salling Group

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