As multi-site retailers look beyond traditional means to reduce operating costs in today’s tough economic climate they are looking at their energy bills. While retailers can’t control competitive, political, and socio-economic conditions, they can control their energy consumption.
The best way of doing this is by adopting an energy management system as it plays a major role in determining energy costs.
Reducing energy consumption
A report from software provider, Verisae, shows that even small efficiency measures can save retailers a great deal of money. Submeters, consumption analysis and the maintenance of systems can help to reduce energy consumption.
An increasing number of retailers are installing energy managements systems. In the US, about 63% of retailers have an energy management system in at least half of their stores, according to the Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association.
Sprint, a major US telecommunications retailer, has revealed that the company is set to save US$15 million over the next decade, thanks to the implementation of a new retail energy management system. The system has been installed in over 1,000 Sprint retail stores. The energy management system, supplied by Proliphix, is expected to reduce Sprint’s retail energy costs by 15%, a US$1.5 million annual savings-with an 18-month payback on the program. The system will reduce the company’s monthly spend on electricity and natural gas and enable more energy efficient operations.
By controlling mechanical systems through the new system, Sprint estimates it will reduce its electrical usage by 11 million kWh per year. The Web-based energy management system can remotely control heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The energy management team and retail operations team can view the performance indicators via a web-based interface.
Energy Management Solutions for the retailer
Retailers are no longer operating blind in their efforts to adjust energy consumption to reduce peak demand and save money. Actual information about how much energy each piece of equipment consumes over time allows them to intelligently manage their energy demand during peak hours.
Energy management solutions can help retailers with the following:
Align enterprise and local energy/ business objectives
Compare energy consumption patterns
Sub meter point of consumption (e.g. Lighting, HVAC, refrigeration).
Set policies based on occupancy and safety
Reduce maintenance cost, increase flexibility
Facilitate centralised management of energy consumption
Manage stores with fewer personnel
Establish operating parameters for energy systems at their facilities
Install automated control
Collect data to identify savings opportunities
Energy issues will be identified by the system and retailers can resolve them efficiently at a minimal cost
More control over consumption as the enterprise-wide reporting platform provides data store-by-store
Combined solutions such as the one between Constellation’s VirtuWatt Link web services application and Novar’s Opus Building Automation System (BAS) by Novar, a Honeywell business unit, gives retailers the ability to automate and expand load response participation across multiple sites and regions through real-time electricity pricing, centralized management of building control systems and revenue-grade metering capabilities for programs requiring quick response times. Novar retail customers who participate in Constellation load response programs can also apply the revenue they earn for controls and metering upgrades at additional locations.
Energy generation - the next step
Another ambitious solution is to take control of energy generation, as is the case with Walmart. Walmart has over 180 renewable energy projects in operation or development around the world, generating enough energy to power 78,000 American homes annually. Walmart prides itself in being a leader in testing and scaling renewable energy projects in their stores, including solar, micro-wind on their parking lots, biodiesel generators and fuel cells.
These locally generated power sources have the potential to meet up to 60% of a store’s energy needs. By buying power directly from the source, via long-term power purchase agreements (PPA), electricity costs are being lowered and these savings, according to the firm, are being passed on to their customers.
The variation of energy management tools will increase as retailers demand solutions to their energy management needs. The market will continue to grow as retailers recognise the energy management system as a powerful tool with a proven track record for producing energy savings.