Retail sector reinforces energy efficiency as a sustainable business priority

The retail sector has reinforced its commitment to energy efficiency as a sustainable business priority, partnering with government to deliver an impressive seminar in London.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) Energy Management Workshop attracted a broad range of the UK’s retail brands, large and small, to share knowledge, practice and ideas, and hear detail on government planning from Amber Rudd, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Climate Change.

The joint BRC-Department of Energy and Climate Change workshop emphasised again how crucial it is for every retailer to have coherent strategic plans in place to manage energy consumption most efficiently.

DECC and Ms Rudd echo what we have been advising businesses and organisations – that being energy-efficient should not add to costs. DECC estimates that large businesses carrying out energy efficiency work should cut around £280 million from energy bills in 2016 alone.

We know that anything up to 40% of a retail property’s electricity use is lighting and that a 20% cut in energy costs equates to a 5% increase in sales.

LED lamps

The challenges in energy-saving lighting can be complex, not least the quality of light being delivered. It’s imperative to retrofit LED lamps that cut electricity use by up to 85% but that’s not much use if the environment is spoiled by atrocious illumination.

The good news is that companies like Soraa are producing the highest quality, new generation LED lamps that cost-effectively grace any retail setting with pure, natural light, in contrast to other LED products.

Beyond lighting, there is a need to ensure that heating and ventilation (HVAC) is operating at maximum efficiency to deliver savings of 35-60%.

Added to this is the need for larger companies to comply with new mandatory government reporting processes, like the Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme, and protect brand reputation with sustainability policies that strengthen Corporate Social Responsibility strategies.

From Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business at Marks & Spencer to Bill Wright, chair of the Energy Retail Forum, the business case for cutting energy consumption and improving sustainability practices was amplified throughout the day.

For me, the main takeaways from an excellent session were:

  • Survey/Measure usage

  • Cut consumption

  • Know full cost of maintenance

Survey/measure: It is tempting to jump into tactical, just-in-time energy saving work but there is a critical need for retailers to ensure that they have the detailed data and other information to plan a long-term, strategic energy management policy. And that needs the fullest surveys and measurement processes possible.

These nuggets of information will help to identify areas for change, clarify what solutions are needed and provide a benchmark for comparison and measurement. Without this data, there is little realistic hope of a successful long-term energy efficiency strategy as there is no feedback on what is working and what is not delivering.

Cut consumption: this might seem like an unnecessary point but it’s within the context of the increasing number of retailers who are planning or have installed alternative, renewable energy generation sources.

There’s not much point in investing in renewables like solar panels or wind turbines without ensuring that energy use is kept to a minimum at all times. The percentage utility cost savings are multiplied greatly by meshing renewables with energy-efficient solutions.

Maintenance costs: It’s essential for every retail operation to have absolute clarity on the true, total maintenance costs of all items that consumer energy. For example, a retailer should know all the cost inputs on the ownership and deployment of lighting tubes, panels, spotlights and downlights. Included in this is the cost of ordering, delivery processing, storage, fitting, replacement and disposal.

That’s why the decision to retrofit a retail environment with LED lighting delivers more savings than just reduced electricity consumption. Well manufactured LEDs offer extremely long life, low to zero in-place maintenance and simple recycling disposal, with no harmful elements to raise concerns.

The BRC and leading retailers, together with DECC, are promoting a taskforce to help all retailers, particularly the smaller brands that are hesitating on energy management. That’s a great development and we wholeheartedly support the initiative.

All retailers need to have confidence that the investment in energy-saving solutions delivers a rapid ROI and continued savings over many years. We have impressive real-world examples of that and continue to help a wide range of companies gain maximum commercial benefit from best energy management.

We’re looking forward to rolling out energy-saving, cost-cutting programmes with retailers over the next year and beyond.



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