Success Story

SusCool: A small sensor with a big impact on supermarket chain energy consumption

The problem

Refrigeration is one of the main drivers in supermarkets energy consumption, amounting to almost 50 % of the total figure. Nearly a decade ago, two men started to question this: How should we best deal with the internal heat within a supermarket? What is the amount of heat? Where is energy wasted and how could this be changed? This genuine interest was the start of a unique relationship between York Ostermeyer, at that time postdoc at ETH Zürich, his team and the REWE supermarket chain in Northern Germany.

The solution

A few years later (2014) the team had moved to Chalmers University of Technology (Gothenburg, Sweden) 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 EIT 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 only a handshake to start a first pilot. This was quite rare, because not very often do supermarkets work with Universities.

“With only a few clicks we install the system and via the smartphone app we monitor and ensure the quality. 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

The impact

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 CO2 per 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 EIT Climate-KIC BTA and Chalmers University at the end of 2016.

Currently SusCool saves around 3 to 5 % CO2 emissions with easily implemented measures, whilst at the same time improving the food security. But, it is convinced that a 30-40% efficiency improvement will be possible in the very near future by providing a range 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 an 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, the company behind the SusCool solution, is dedicated to play a part in this.

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.

In short, by involving the manufacturers of cooling cabinets, the SusCool solution has the potential to create a massive climate impact throughout the entire supermarket sector in Germany and across its borders.

““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

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.

EIT Climate-KICs role

ChillServices is the Spin-Off of a co-creation process between EIT 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 the relationship with REWE, they were able to take 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. EIT Climate-KIC BTA supports the SusCool 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

More about EIT Climate-KIC

Find out more about how EIT Climate-KIC creates a systemic impact and other initiatives under the Urban Transitions theme, creating the climate-resilient, zero-carbon towns and cities of the future.

Published 18 May 2018

About BTA

Building Technologies Accelerator (BTA) is a programme by EIT Climate-KIC: the EU’s largest public private partnership addressing climate change through innovation to build a zero carbon economy.