Image of fridges in a Supermarket

Cool innovation for energy saving in supermarkets

Refrigeration stands for almost 50% of the total energy consumption in supermarkets. The Chalmers and Climate-KIC supported start-up ChillServices seek to change that by saving around 3 to 5 % with easy implemented measures, and the researchers are convinced that 30-40% efficiency improvement is within reach.

​Refrigeration is one of the main drivers in supermarkets energy consumption, almost 50 % of the total. Almost 10 years ago, 2 guys started to ask questions about this consumption: How do you deal with internal heat within a supermarket? How much is this amount of heat? Where is the energy wasted and how could this be changed? This genuine interest was the start of a unique relationship between York Ostermeyer, his team and the REWE supermarket chain in Northern Germany.
A handshake agreement

A few years later (2014) the team originally formed at ETH Zürich, had moved to Chalmers and been complemented with Tommie Månsson, a PhD student interested in CFD modelling, and Christian Marx, a postdoc with a focus on remote sensoring. Investigations under the Climate-KIC flagship BTA, led to the development of a service and a product – the so called RDC FieldAgent and the SensorHold. Because of the existing strong relationship to REWE, it took a handshake to start a first pilot. Very rare, because supermarkets normally don’t work with Universities and co-operations are legally boarded.

Astonishing outcome

The first evaluation had an outcome of decreased electricity consumption for each doored refrigerated display cabinet (RDC) by 3 %, which is approx. 6,000 kWh, roughly 4-5 tons CO2per retail store per year. After further improvement of the product and complementing it with a smartphone APP, REWE ordered the SensorHold for 1.500 RDCs with a total project volume of 300 kEUR. All managed by the start-up ChillServices, which was founded by Climate-KIC BTA and Chalmers University at the end of 2016.

“We took some very hands-on measurements initially: e.g. we bended a piece of metal for our hotspot analysis, which we professionalised after the pre-tests. Very easy! With only a few clicks the craftsmen install the system and via the smartphone app we monitor the process and ensure the quality. As part of the process we generate a lot of data that can be used to tailor further services to our client. The energy saving that we enable is actually quite an achievement, as REWE is already the most advanced supermarket in terms of energy efficiency.“ – York Ostermeyer, Associate Professor Chalmers University and co-founder of the ChillServices company

“We are always scouting the market for ways to further improve the energy efficiency of our markets. The work with a Spin-off of an academic institution however is the first time for us. So far, it’s been an inspiring cooperation that generated some outstanding results with new learnings for everybody involved. With all the attention this is getting, I am optimistic that this can turn into a role model.” – Jan Lahmann, Head of Energy Management REWE North.

Warranty for cool spaces is the long term vision

Currently Chillservices saves around 3 to 5 % CO2 with easy implemented measures while at the same time improving food security, but the Spin-Off is convinced that 30-40% efficiency improvement is possible in the very near future by providing all kind of integral services and products related to a warranty for cool spaces to supermarkets against the lowest possible costs. This will of course require substantial changes in today’s value chains and business models and extensive cooperation with partners from cooling cabinet manufacturers to energy suppliers. When overcoming these barriers substantial benefits could be unlocked by an overall optimization. This might be years in the future, but ChillServices is dedicated to play a part in this.

Clear path to expansion

Since supermarket chains constantly look for technologies meeting their sustainability strategies, ChillServices works on several activities in the upcoming period:

  • Fast implementation of SensorHold: goal for 2017 is 200 supermarkets with approx. 12,000 RDCs in Germany
  • Acquire customer network – next markets: e.g. France and UK
  • Implementation into the supermarket chain’s general sustainability strategy
  • Solidify underlying business model
  • Upscaling ChillServices in turnover, profits and team members

Open innovation & mutual trust

ChillServices is the Spin-Off of a co-creation process between Climate-KIC BTA and Chalmers University of Technology. It started in The Building Technology lab environment at Chalmers with the investigation into air flows around windows and doors. The team at Chalmers, created models and studied the results. Because of their relationship with REWE, they took their ideas to a new field – supermarkets – and applied it there. This now results in a perfect illustration of co-creation and open innovation, in a setting of mutual trust. Climate-KIC BTA supports this project with funds, knowledge & experience and network.

“It has been a joy to see these men developing their product and service, to assist them in building up their start-up and then to see their first impact. It is exactly what Europe needs: the smartest minds producing smart, solid solutions to tackle climate change.” – Zeno Winkels, Business Developer Climate-KIC BTA

About ChillServices

ChillServices ensures CO2 savings in the range of roughly 4-5 t CO2 eq. per market per year. The target is 200 supermarkets in 2017 and eventually all 8,000 supermarkets of the REWE group. Or in other numbers: at cost-benefit-ratio of 5 EUR/t CO2 eq. that stands for a potential EUR 312,500 savings per year for REWE under current emission certificate process and easily more than 1 million EUR per year based on the lowest projections from 2020.

Besides indirect emission certificate savings the measures currently pay off directly by energy savings alone within around 2 years. As retail store installations have a life time of around 15 years this is more than attractive for supermarket owners.

Finally, the measures contribute to more homogenous cooling of the goods stored in the cabinets adding to lifetime and quality of what is eventually the main purpose of a supermarket – selling food.

Read more about the Climate-KIC BTA


Published: Sun 11 Jun 2017. Modified: Mon 19 Jun 2017