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How to Cut Energy Consumption and Expenditure at Retail

Posted by IFCO Systems
April 06, 2017

The approach of Earth Day is always a good opportunity to take stock of supply chain sustainability efforts, including energy usage at the supermarket. Grocery stores, notes Natural Resources Canada, are among the most energy-intensive commercial buildings, with costs typically averaging around 1% of sales. Their energy consumption is mostly related to refrigeration and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) demands.

Attention to power usage at retail can help aid carbon footprint reduction as well as offer meaningful cost savings. After all, one dollar saved on the supermarket energy bill has the same impact on the bottom line as a sales increase of $18, according to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE.) data. On a square foot basis, according to the DOE Energy Star program, the average supermarket uses around 50 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity and 50 cubic feet of natural gas per year. That equates to about a $4 per square foot annual energy bill, with as much as 60% spent on refrigeration.

In addition to environmental impact and direct cost savings, improvements made at store level can have other significant benefits, including reducing the risk of food spoilage and vulnerability to energy price fluctuation, reduced, as well as helping create a more pleasant working and shopping environment.

There are a number of ways to take aim at energy consumption at retail, ranging from doing the little things right such as closing doors and powering off equipment, to capital investment to improve equipment and systems. A comprehensive approach to energy management involves a dynamic interaction of technological change, organizational change, and behavioral change. Here are three ideas towards improvements:

Do the little things right. To achieve a successful energy management program, it must succeed on a number of different levels. Look first to low-cost measures such as:

  • Turning things off, including shutting off cash registers, computers, lighting and other equipment when not in use. The installation of occupancy sensors for lighting can also help.
  • Monitoring temperature settings to ensure settings are correct for coolers and freezers, as well as for adjusting temperature during unoccupied times. As EPA notes, refrigerant leaks and improper control regimes are often significant opportunities for savings in refrigeration systems. It may be worthwhile to bring in outside experts to ensure optimal performance.
  • Keeping doors shut to avoid needless temperature fluctuation.
  • Maintaining a regular maintenance schedule to support the energy-efficient performance of equipment, including air filter change, inspection of door gaskets, cleaning of condenser coils and HVAC cooling coils, as well as furnace or boiler servicing. According to one expert, there is statistical evidence that “significant efficiency gains and substantial reductions in energy consumption can be made simply by cleaning and maintaining the air conditioning condenser on a routine basis.”

Check out the technology opportunities. Investments in a range of newer technologies ranging from more efficient coolers and lighting upgrades to improved coolants and sophisticated smart-grid technologies can help operators significantly lower their energy bill. For example, Festival Foods, a family- and employee-owned chain in the Midwest has built a new outlet in Somers, Wisconsin with advanced refrigeration equipment designed to use advanced refrigerants. By running Honeywell’s reduced-global-warming refrigerant, Solstice® N40 (R-448A), the store plans to shave three percent or more from its energy bill. New fan-based motors present another opportunity. They can reportedly reduce energy consumption by 50 to 80% versus traditional motors. 

Just take a closer look at your energy bill. According to a recent study of 10,000 UK businesses, one in five power bills are incorrect, and that nationally, firms may have been overcharged to the tune of £500 million ($627 million) per year. One supermarket was found to have been overcharged £700,000) $878,000 in duplicate charges. Around 80% of UK businesses do not regularly undertake invoice validation and bill audits, according to research.

"Paying too much for energy bills because of simple data issues or human error is easily resolved and can result in significant savings for businesses, from direct refunds to preventing future unnecessary payouts," stated chief commercial officer David Cockshott of Inenco, the firm which undertook the research.

Here are some resources aimed at helping supermarket operators power their energy reduction efforts.

ENERGY STAR Score for Supermarkets/Grocery Stores The objective of the ENERGY STAR score is to provide a fair assessment of the energy performance of a property relative to its peers, taking into account the climate, weather, and business activities at the property.

Energy Benchmarking for Supermarkets and Food Stores  (Natural Resources Canada) Energy benchmarking is an essential best practice and the foundation for an effective energy management and decision-making plan.

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