Multi-site retailers are under tremendous pressure to increase sales, cut costs, and provide shareholders with consistent annual revenue and earnings growth. In turn, the refrigeration contractors who service those store sites must do all they can to help their store customers conserve energy.

Here are seven strategies that retailers and their servicing contractors can use to optimize their energy spending, while maintaining a customer-focused retail experience.

1. Design for Energy Efficiency

An energy-efficient facility is the product of an energy-efficient design. A successful, energy-efficient design should be based on three fundamental philosophies:

• use only the most appropriate energy-consuming equipment
• base decisions and selections on total life-cycle costs
• allow for operational flexibility.

When selecting HVAC and lighting systems, retailers should think in terms of total life-cycle costs—the costs involved in purchasing the equipment and operating it over a period of years. Reliable equipment that runs efficiently might cost more up front but can produce energy savings from Day 1 of operation—savings that reduce the overall cost of the equipment in the long run.

2. Upgrade for Increased Energy Efficiency

Age is the primary cause of reduced energy efficiency. Equipment suffers wear and tear simply from operating over time. Its efficiency can also be affected by catastrophic events (hail storms, water damage, etc.). Retailers who upgrade their systems, incorporating new equipment with new, cost-saving technologies, reduce their energy spend and realize quick paybacks on their investment. The key is knowing what to upgrade and when.

3. Use an Energy Management System

An Energy Management System (EMS) is a powerful tool with a proven track record for producing energy savings based on the following factors:

• Retailers can establish operating parameters for the energy systems at their facilities
• The EMS provides automated control based on the established parameters.
• The EMS collects and stores data that can be used to identify energy savings opportunities.
• When energy-related issues arise, an alarm system within the EMS notifies a designated person or people. Issues can be resolved quickly, at minimal cost.

4. Use Energy-Saving Strategies

Energy usage reduction in retail space can be accomplished via many proven strategies. All of them can be easily applied to retail designs, operations, and upgrade projects and have documented successes to back-up their projected savings. The following are just a few of these strategies:
• scheduling and occupancy detection
• continuous commissioning
• daylight harvesting
• demand ventilation
• load shedding.

5. Measure Regularly

The saying, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure” definitely applies to energy usage.

Energy usage data collection and analysis is a critical part of any successful energy cost reduction strategy. Collecting and analyzing data allows a retailer to:
• set a baseline based on normalized data.
• evaluate and prove the success of a strategy.
• recognize an abnormal situation.

A baseline — based on 12 months of energy usage data and square footage — identifies outliers, both positive and negative, across a portfolio of stores and allows retailers to target specific sites for energy usage reduction programs.

6. Know the Supply Side

Deregulation and energy market volatility create both opportunities and risks in relation to energy costs. The best strategy for reducing that risk and keeping costs low is to use less energy, but an effective supply-side strategy is also critical to overall success because it  frequently determines which demand-side strategies are used. Such a strategy involves:

• buying smart.
• verifying the accuracy of bills.
• ensuring that bills are paid on time.

7. Sustain the Effort

A truly successful overall strategy for optimizing an organization’s retail energy spend must be sustained over time and become part of the organization’s standard operating procedures.

Energy management is not a one-time event. Programs that are not maintained quickly lose their energy cost savings. Retailers need to incorporate individual parts of their energy management program into their organization’s daily routine. For example, instead of designing and reviewing energy strategies for individual store designs, change the store design review process so that it includes a review of energy efficiency strategies.

Joe Stough is director, segment marketing for Novar, a division of Honeywell. For a more detailed, technical explanation of the strategies mentioned in this edited article, please refer to Novar’s white paper entitled, “7 Key Management Strategies for Retailers,” available at novar.com/resources/white-papers.