The figure below shows the five broad areas of cold chain operations required during the entire fruit and vegetables (F&V) supply chain: (a) Initial cooling of fresh produce in the stages of production and primary processing; (b) chilling and freezing of products during the secondary processing stage; (c) refrigerated storage and distribution; (d) retail; and (e) domestic refrigeration in the consumer’s household.
The figure provides an overview of national electricity usage for the domestic cold chain of F&V at each of the stages above, based on 2005/06 production values. Although somehow dated, this information is expected to be close to 2011 values.
Most importantly, the figure shows the estimated values of CO2 emissions, based on a carbon price of $23 per tonne CO2-e.
Essentially, cold chain operations during primary processing (at farm or packing houses) are related to produce precooling. Although primary processing can include storage, all energy used during storage is considered in the “distribution and handling” sector. Further, while good cold chain practices dictate that sensitive products should be immediately cooled after harvest, the reality is that many products are collected, stored and shipped at ambient conditions when these periods are short enough to avoid significant quality losses. Other products are simply not refrigerated (e.g. onions, fresh potatoes). Therefore, the scenario for energy usage assumes that only 50% of the vegetable production is precooled.
The calculation of the total energy usage during cold storage and retail phases was based on the assumption that chilled and frozen fruit and vegetables use only 20% of the total energy used in cold storage operations in Australia. This is a conservative estimate.
Likewise, it is assumed that the energy necessary to maintain the cold chain of F&V is 20% of the total energy requirements in retail refrigeration in Australia.
The estimation of the energy used for domestic refrigeration took into account that about 30% of the refrigerator is used for holding chilled and frozen vegetables, which is representative of the split observed in the “consumer’s household” section of the figure.
The Energy Users Association of Australia (EUAA) indicated today that the $23 per tonne of CO2 carbon price will add around $20 per Mega Watt hour to the price of electricity next year. Using this estimate, we calculated both the value of emissions per supply chain link AND the extra costs that should be expected in electricity due to cold chain operations (from farm to fork) of fruit and vegetables, from July 2012.
1) The EUAA estimate on electricity price increases is 9% higher than the effect of adding just the estimated cost of carbon, priced at $23. I am not sure why this disparity, perhaps EUAA is adding admin/GST costs. Another possibility is that EUAA is accounting for Scope 3 emissions derived from electricity production, but these should not be added to the mix at this stage, in my view.
2) Energy consumption increases dramatically towards the final stages of the chain. So retailers and consumers are the most affected parties. Retail refrigeration would absorb 78% of the electricity increases in the commercial cold chain of F&V.
3) Our calculations just take into account fruit and vegetable cold chains. Consumers would pay an extra $94.7 million to cover electricity price increases by July 2012 for this category only. Assuming that there are 8.5 million households in Australia, the increase in the electricity bill would be roughly of $11.15 per household per year. We have assumed that F&V represent 30% of the domestic fridge use, so the total increase in electricity spent in domestic refrigeration would be about $37.20 per household per year.
4) From a whole-of-the-chain point of view, energy saving technologies that target retail and domestic refrigeration are likely to have more impact than other sectors.
This is an area for further research that FCI would be more than happy to discuss with potential clients. See references below that refer to our experience in this area.
Estrada-Flores S. Market analysis for energy savings in the cold chain, in Packaging, Storage & Transport Report 51. 2007, Food Science Australia: North Ryde, NSW. p. 1-75.
Estrada-Flores S. Achieving temperature control and energy efficiency in the cold chain. Proc. 1st Conference on Sustainability and the Cold Chain. Cambridge, UK.March 29-31, 2010. International Institute of Refrigeration.
Estrada-Flores, S. Technology Platform 2: Adaptation and Mitigation Technologies, Opportunities and challenges faced with emerging technologies in the Australian vegetable industry Horticulture Australia Ltd, 2009 pp. 1-109.
Estrada-Flores, S. and Platt, G. Electricity usage in the Australian cold chain. 2007. Food Australia, Vol. 59 No. 8, pp. 382-394.