A shop without fuel oil or natural gas? Here’s how it works

A nice cosy shop with no heating boiler may seem hard to believe, but it’s true. Our OKay shop in Stavelot proves it. We heat it using only residual heat and green electricity. We call this kind of shop ‘fossil fuel-free’. This concept is a perfect fit with our 2020 objective: by 2020, we want to reduce our total carbon emissions by 20% compared to 2008.

A fossil fuel-free shop without a heating boiler reduces carbon emissions by 99%. Not 100% because we still need to produce and maintain our installations and that can’t always be completely CO2-free. A shop without natural gas or fuel oil? We achieve this in six ways.

CO2 emissions 2020 objective

1. Renovate and save energy

If a shop doesn’t have a heating boiler, it must first and foremost be well-insulated and airtight. Because only then do new technologies such as heat recovery and heat pumps deliver the maximum return. That’s why we’re converting all our older shops into low-energy shops.

Colruyt Torhout insulation
First we insulate the shop extremely well and make the building airtight.

2. Using residual heat

How do we keep the shopping area warm? With the residual heat released from the propane or propene refrigeration plant. In a traditional refrigeration plant, the heat is expelled into the open air. You can also recover this residual heat to heat a building cost-effectively and in a more environmentally-friendly way, for example.

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Installation of the propane refrigeration plant in Stavelot
We can recover the residual heat from the refrigeration plant to heat the building.

3. Calculating the energy balance

Exactly how much heat is needed to heat the shop? How do we maximise the use of the available heat? How much residual heat is there in winter? Is that enough? Our engineers make all the calculations and see if it’s necessary to use green electricity to supplement the heat. So you’ll never have to shop in a cold shop.

Calculating the energy balance
By calculating the energy balance, we can thoroughly assess whether it’s necessary to supplement the heat on cold days.

4. Only sustainable electricity

If there’s the (occasional) need for extra heating in winter months, we use electricity. More specifically, sustainable electricity produced by Eoly’s solar panels and wind turbines. The whole shop also works on green electricity: lights, freezers, cash tills, etc.

Wind turbines on the lawn
If extra heating is needed in winter, we use green electricity from our wind turbines and solar panels.

5. Heat pump or not?

The butchers in Colruyt and Bio-Planet also need hot water on tap. This is why we’re testing a heat pump. It extracts heat from the environment and releases it back into the water. To do this, all the heat pump needs is electricity (and this is green). The system is far more energy-efficient than an electric boiler, and emits hardly any CO2 when compared to natural gas or fuel oil.

Washing up at butcher’s shop in Colruyt Halle
Heat pumps will supply the demand for hot water in Colruyt butcher's shops. The system is more economical and ecological, and installation is also cheaper.

6. No heating boiler

If a shop has no heating boiler, there is obviously no need for a fuel oil tank or natural gas connection. That saves us the installation, inspection and maintenance costs.

Space with refrigeration plants
Because we don’t need a heating boiler, we don't need to invest in a natural gas connection, a boiler room, a heating boiler, etc. That saves us a lot.

With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Affordable and clean energy Industry, innovation & infrastructure Climate action