Energy efficiency could unlock mega-savings in retail

Bill Wright of the British Council of Shopping Centres revealed today the results of the council’s research into energy use in retail at the Retail Lighting and Energy Conference in London.

In a new report on cutting costs and carbon emissions in retail, Wright outlines simple ways that retailers can become more efficient. ‘Saving energy isn’t that difficult,’ he said. ‘It all comes down to cost in today’s highly cut-throat retail environment and cutting energy saves on cost. It’s also good for the environment.’

But getting energy consumption data from retailers for the report was tough, Wright said. Those that helped by providing before and after data – companies like The Co-Operative, Dixons Retail and Waitrose – should be congratulated, he said.

‘The industry needs simple guidelines on how to save energy but performance is often measured by sales rather than profit,’ he added. ‘The fact that they’re overlighting their stores is by-the-by. But you have to take it into account. Sometimes the cost of energy exceeds the cost of sales.’

With the government forcing companies to put energy on the agenda via schemes such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment, and with prices set to increase, pretty soon it’s going to be a ‘major consideration’, he said, adding, ‘At the moment energy is too cheap.’

Data clearly helps when it comes to asking for money at board level. Wright said he could see ‘major results’ at the retailers who shared their experiences.

Wright advises putting a meter in the part of a building which is subject to a retrofit. ‘Evidence is often in short supply. Good metering and good data is absolutely essential. We can’t stress that enough,’ he said.

Retailers are also being held back by misperceptions or fear. For instance, retailers are often reluctant to put doors on chill cabinets in the UK for fear of putting a barrier between the customers and the products, while in France a new regulation will soon require all chillers in retail outlets to have doors, to prevent energy waste. ‘This will save one per cent of the nation’s entire energy bill,’ Wright said.

A branch of The Co-Operative in London saved 29 per cent by implementing LED lighting, doors on fridges and some integrated refrigeration. Waitrose cuts its gas consumption by 75 per cent via a heat recirculation programme and low-energy lighting, and Dixons Retail saw a 47 per cent reduction in electricity usage by changing the lighting setup in a warehouse.  Even at current energy prices, cumulative savings over ten years for Dixons were predicted to be over £580,000.

But Wright emphasised that it is often small changes that make the most impact. For instance, turning off air conditioning when it is not needed, or asking cleaners to come in an hour later.