For this 2nd instalment of our industry focus series, we’re looking at energy saving solutions for supermarkets. The holidays are upon us, and for grocery store managers, things are already going nutcrackers. Shopping-crazed customers are leaving fridges open, the heat is blasting to keep those holiday shoppers warm, and opening hours are extended…
But what if I told you this festive madness could work in your favour? Or that the holiday season is actually the BEST time to save energy (and consequently, money!)?
Don’t just take it from me – Energy Star estimates that every dollar saved on energy expenses in supermarkets is equivalent to a $59 increase in sales! How’s that for a Christmas miracle?
As it happens, seriously cool energy saving solutions for supermarkets have hit the market recently…in this blog we’ll tell you our top 5 favourites!
The Super(market) Saving Opportunity
Of the total operating costs of a supermarket, which include purchasing merchandise, employee salaries, and more, energy can account for between 10% and 15%, which is huge for a business that operates such tight margins. For the average mid-sized supermarket in the US (50,000 sq. ft. or 4650 m2) that translates to more than $200,000 annually in energy costs alone, according to Navigant Research. (Not to mention the 1,900 tons of CO2 emissions it dumps in the atmosphere…)
But to take advantage of the financial opportunities provided by energy saving solutions in supermarkets, first we need to understand how grocery stores actually consume energy. Here’s a basic breakdown of energy performance at a standard mid-sized supermarket:
Without a doubt, refrigeration is the biggest energy vampire in grocery stores, taking up more than half of all consumption, followed closely by lighting. Combined, these guys eat up nearly 80% of all electricity consumption – but repeat after me: this is a good thing.
Why? Because lighting and refrigeration systems tend to be the easiest and cheapest places to start generating serious energy efficiency savings! Since grocery store profit margins are so thin (around 1%), a 10% reduction in energy costs can boost net profit margins by as much as 16%. Hallelujah, right?
Although no silver bullet solution exists to guarantee maximum energy efficiency for every grocery store on the planet, there are some pretty *cool* (oh yes we did) emerging refrigeration technologies out there that can make a big dent in supermarket energy consumption. Here are our top 5 favourites:
1. Formula 1 in Aisle 4?
Researchers at Formula One engineering firm Williams Advanced Engineering in the UK have developed an energy-saving airfoil for the front edge of open-air fridges. Basically, airfoils redirect air to make airplanes fly and help racecars speed around tight corners. In a supermarket, they can act as barriers that push cold air back into open fridges, preventing it from mixing with the warm air of the store.
Since open-air fridges consume 1.3 times more energy than refrigerators with doors, using airfoils can help supermarkets cut energy costs by 25% or more. The devices are already being tested in the UK and Europe at grocery chains including Sainsbury’s, and are expected to hit the US market just in time for stricter refrigeration regulations coming in March of next year.
2. The Powerwall of Backup Cooling
Another nifty energy-saving gadget is the Refrigeration Battery from Axiom Energy. Like Elon Musk’s Powerwall, the battery works using demand response technology, i.e. storing energy when power is cheaper (at non-peak hours) in order to smooth out the demand curve:
Unlike the Tesla battery, it uses water instead of lithium to make energy-saving magic. This can cut 20% off a grocery store’s total electricity bills, and can also work as an emergency backup power system. The best part? No need to alter programming or make physical changes to your refrigeration systems. COOL.
3. Beets Beat HFCs
Our final favourite efficient refrigeration tech is a delightfully practical example of the circular economy at work. According to The Guardian, 200 Sainsbury’s stores are piloting natural refrigerants made from sugar beet processing waste. The CO2-based natural refrigerant is called eCO2 and actually outcompetes HFCs in energy efficiency. Even better, it has a global warming potential that is orders of magnitude less than R404A, a synthetic refrigerant most commonly used by supermarkets globally.
Before you know if and where to implement technologies like eCO2, the Formula One airfoil or Axiom’s Refrigeration Battery in your supermarket, it helps to have done some kind of diagnostic report, sometimes known as an energy audit.
4. Virtual Energy Audits
Energy audits can be really expensive if done on-site, and with a 1% profit margin, supermarkets aren’t exactly flush with financial resources to spend on energy efficiency in the first place.
Thankfully, the energy elves at DEXMA have been hard at work building Energy Grader – a free and fast virtual energy audit tool that calculates energy savings potential. By anonymously comparing the electricity consumption of your store with data from similar ones, you can understand how much electricity and money you’ll save.
Looking at the data from existing Energy Grader reports, our Product Team found that on average, supermarkets can generate 26% in potential energy savings – and that’s just for electricity! (Don’t forget about gas and thermal sources for heating and cooling! More about that here.)
Digging deeper into the data, we found that a 7,500 m2 supermarket in France that could benefit from an average savings of € 95,000 per year! For another grocery store in Africa, reducing energy consumption by 21% would result in savings on of the order of $40,000 USD annually.
Hungry to generate similar savings at your store? Start by getting your free personalised Energy Grader report today:
5. Energy Management Systems for Supermarkets
Once you have your savings potential and energy pricing benchmark in hand, it’s time to make it a reality. You might find that in the end, it is worth finding an energy services company (ESCO) to do an on-site audit at your grocery store. One of the leading grocery chains in the Basque region of Spain, Berriak Supermarkets, chose Servicios Energéticos to help them save more than €20,000 annually. To learn how they reduced their electricity bill by a whopping 37%, check out the full case study here.
Or, if you are the energy manager for a larger supermarket chain, such as Catania Più in Italy, you might consider implementing your own energy management software system (sometimes called aM&T software) to manage your own energy savings. In the case of Catania Più, their energy consumption was reduced by 18% in the first year, saving a total of €12,500.