Big Savings Expected From New Cooler and Freezer Standards

Walk-in Freezer Photo by Dennis Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Post written by Rachel Fakhry, Schneider Fellow

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) formally proposed energy conservation standards for six classes of refrigeration equipment for walk-in coolers and walk-in freezers (commonly called walk-ins) earlier this week. Walk-ins are large refrigerated coolers and freezers found in almost every restaurant, supermarket, and convenience store in the country, and the proposed standards are expected to save billions of dollars and kilowatt-hours of electricity.

The proposed standards are the result of a negotiated rulemaking between the DOE, industry representatives, and energy efficiency advocates completed last year and are a testament to the effectiveness of negotiated rulemakings for working through complex and challenging concerns (for more information on the back story, refer to my earlier blog).

The new standards would save 0.90 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) of energy over 30 years of sales, equivalent to the annual electricity use of about 8 million U.S. homes. They would also result in cumulative reductions of 54 million metric tons of harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of over 11 million passenger vehicles driven for one year.

In addition to these environmental benefits, the proposed standards for walk-in refrigeration systems are projected to yield significant economic benefits, netting businesses up to $4 billion in savings during that period.

Adding these six amended standards back into the full set of walk-in standards finalized in 2014 (which established separate standards for the three major components that comprise walk-ins - i.e. doors, panels and refrigeration systems) is still expected to deliver economic benefits similar to those computed two years ago (before the six standards were reworked)-- saving businesses up to $10 billion over 30 years of sales.

DOE is scheduled to finalize the rule later this year, and once finalized, the new standards would take effect three years later.  We expect the process to be smooth given the significant contribution of industry and affected stakeholders in setting out the proposed standards. This is pretty cool news for businesses that use walk-ins as they will start realizing billions in savings soon.