By Anders Sjøgaard, Sales and Marketing Director at Gram Commercial A/S
Buyers hold the key to stopping energy waste
You can hardly open a newspaper nowadays without reading about national climate objectives, curbs on public spending or poor competitiveness. It is therefore surprising that buyers in both the public and private sectors do not make greater effort to meet the demands of the new, energy-conscious agenda when purchasing equipment for new-build projects or the modernisation of existing buildings. Within my own area alone – equipment for commercial kitchens – significant energy savings can be made by choosing the right product. This necessitates, however, that buyers are not tempted by low purchase prices but instead take a slighter broader view and consider the total lifetime costs of the products. By doing so, buyers would discover that the energy-efficient products we in Denmark are so good at producing are, in the long run, a much better alternative to energy-guzzling standard products. With the new Danish building regulations, BR10, and low-energy classes, the energy consumption of buildings is now much more precisely specified – but we lack similar specification of commercial kitchen equipment.
Climate saint became energy sinner
In early summer 2012, I visited a public sector new-build project in a Danish municipality whose declared objective was to become CO2-neutral within a short number of years. I was therefore astonished to find that the kitchen was equipped with five professional refrigeration products of Chinese make, all of which used 20-year-old technology based on HFC, a potent greenhouse gas. Such products probably each consume somewhere between 50 and 200 per cent more energy than the most energy-efficient alternatives – corresponding to a greater total annual consumption of up to 7,500 kWh. Admitted, the Chinese products are without doubt a lot cheaper to buy. Before long, however, the higher energy consumption will push their total cost above that of more energy-efficient, environmentally friendly alternatives. On top of this, the Chinese products are in direct conflict with the municipality's own declared objective of becoming CO2-neutral. Deliberate? Surely not! The missing link in this case – like so many others – is the lacking requirement specification on the energy efficiency of commercial kitchen equipment.
Tender documents behind the times
In Denmark, we have worked with green technology in the commercial kitchen sector for more than a decade. Among other things, our efforts have resulted in the development of energy-efficient, HFC-free refrigerators and freezers for professional kitchens. At EU level, Danish manufacturers and the Danish authorities have worked closely together for a strict line on energy. The objective is clear: a common European energy-marking scheme, something which is already in the pipeline. Unfortunately, though, agreement on taking a strict line does not always lead to the desired effect in national tender documents, which are characterised by weakly formulated requirements on energy efficiency and which reflect the fact that – in my opinion – buyers focus far too much on standard products. This is something that is exploited to a large extent by suppliers who care little for the environment. The greatest mistakes usually occur when a commercial kitchen signs a turnkey contract where the sole criterion is lowest price. In my opinion, buyers are often unaware of green technologies and the considerable savings that can be achieved in operating costs. How, though, can we solve the problem until the EU marking scheme comes into effect?
Exploit Denmark's leading position
In my opinion, the solution is obvious. Public and private sector buyers should require that the refrigerators and freezers offered be featured on the Danish Energy Saving Trust's list of energy-saving products – for this would give everyone the possibility of accessing randomly checked information. Although the Danish Energy Saving Trust was officially abolished on 1 July 2012, the list has so far been maintained by the Danish Energy Agency. We should not be surpassed by our neighbours and colleagues in the EU, where much more is done to promote energy-efficient solutions in tenders. In the UK and the Netherlands, for example, depreciation benefits are given for energy-efficient products, while in Sweden the products' life cycle cost (LCC) is included in the assessment of tenders. Even in Norway – with its huge oil reserves – energy efficiency is given high priority.
Denmark leads the way both politically and in the practical work involved in defining the EU marking scheme. On top of that, we already have the green products. All that is lacking is to realise the ambitions in tender documents for equipment.