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Tesco is boosting the number of UK stores with natural refrigeration technology

Tesco has revealed plans to double the number of its stores in the UK using “eco-friendly” natural refrigeration systems.

CEO Philip Clarke made the announcement at a summit hosted by Tesco and attended by a raft of the world’s biggest retailers and suppliers in London this week.

Tesco has 149 stores around the world with natural refrigeration systems. Sixty-five of them are in the UK, which Clarke said would go up to at least 130 by the end of 2013.

“It is important for retailers to tackle their use of refrigerant gases which have such a significant impact on climate change,” he said. “The summit has enabled the world’s top retailers to share the latest information on this innovative technology so that they can scale up our industry’s use of natural refrigeration.”

Video: Tesco’s Philip Clarke on new stores, online plans and global aims

With more than 50% of its food either chilled or frozen, HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) leakage accounts for an estimated 13% of Tesco’s carbon footprint, on the same scale as emissions from all the lorries that move more than three billion cases of goods that Tesco delivers every year.

“Refrigeration has been a key focus of our work,” said Tesco’s climate change director Helen Fleming. “Our aim has been to share knowledge so that our whole industry feels confident to use natural refrigerant technology and shift away from HFC gases.”

The Consumer Goods Forum, which met this week and includes the world’s leading retailers and suppliers, has pledged to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants as from 2015 and replace them with non-HFC refrigerants.

Natural substances such as ammonia, carbon dioxide, propane, iso-butane and helium are all potential alternatives, although the industry faces major issues regarding cost and safety, as well as the huge challenge of replacing existing HFC systems in stores without causing chaos for customers.