A new ‘smart’ supermarket in Denmark has been touted as the future of energy-efficient retail. And its creators believe the technology has the potential to go worldwide

From the outside, the 365 Discount supermarket in Nordborg, southern Denmark, looks like any other grocery store. Located on a busy road – just across from the HQ of Danish engineering giant Danfoss – it’s around the same size as a Tesco Metro and follows a typical supermarket layout.

Behind the curtains, though – or rather, behind the two sliding glass doors that sit near its frozen goods section – its point of difference is revealed. Tucked away in that side room, also known as the Application Development Centre, is cutting-edge technology that aims to make this the “world’s most energy-efficient supermarket”.

It’s all part of a partnership between Danfoss, which is using the store as a testbed for its energy-efficient solutions, and Bals (Brugsforeningen for Als and Sundeved), Denmark’s largest independent supermarket association. The so-called ‘Smart Store’, which reopened last month to queues of customers, runs off sustainable energy alone. Solar power is the primary source: 100kW solar panels power the supermarket operations year-round.

But the reuse of excess heat created by fridges and freezers has proven the real game-changer. The excess is not only used to provide heating and hot water in the store – heating costs have fallen by up to 90% – but any residual energy is shared with residents of the surrounding town through a district energy network.

This highlights the power of excess heat, “the world’s largest untapped source of energy”, says Danfoss Climate Solutions president Jürgen Fischer.

Still, this project is about implementing a range of solutions, rather than just relying on one. The supermarket’s cooling systems, for example, are set up to take advantage of changes in electricity prices. Whenever the systems recognise a drop in prices through the local grid, they lower the temperature in the freezers to take advantage.

Other energy-saving initiatives include doors on refrigerators and freezers, which cut energy use by around a third, while LED lighting uses up to 85% less electricity than incandescent bulbs.

The technology may not be new in itself, but its application is: the Smart Store aims to provide a model for energy-efficient retail in the future.

Cheaper energy

Overall, the 365 Discount branch is approximately 50% more energy-efficient than a typical supermarket with a first-generation CO2 refrigeration system and no real energy efficiency solutions.

And it’s around 20% to 30% more efficient than an equivalent local store already fitted with multiple energy efficiency solutions.

A typical supermarket can cut its energy bill by up to 40% by implementing all this tech, says Danfoss, which claims the capital investment has a payback time of only three to four years. The Nordborg prototype cost a little over £10m to build, but Danfoss expects costs to become lower as the concept expands.

Fischer says ROI will be the selling point for many grocery businesses in Europe and beyond. In the US, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that every dollar a retailer saves on energy is equivalent to increasing sales by $59 (£46).

Fischer is particularly looking forward to bringing the concept to supermarkets in regions such as Latin America and Asia, where the warm climate requires stores to spend more money on refrigeration, but a lot of energy is wasted due to dated technology.

“The Smart Store supermarket is only the beginning,” he says. “It will also serve as an application development centre – a live testing site for new technologies that we hope will inspire food retailers around the world to move towards zero-emissions supermarkets, while making economic sense.”

As energy costs soar and grocers look to hit net zero targets, the Smart Store proposition certainly couldn’t come at a better time.

Its chances of wider adoption look high – and until then, the store provides a glimpse as to what a sustainable retail environment could look like in the not-so distant future.