Savings at the Supermarket

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One of my least favorite things to do is go grocery shopping. I’m usually there at the worst times (right after work, along with the rest of the population of Vancouver), I usually forget my list (and subsequently all the items of which I’m most in need), and I almost always end up in line behind someone who’s paying for their bill in nickels, dimes and pennies (or, you know, I’m that person). Some people love it, some people don’t. I definitely fall into the latter category. But, while I do not enjoy grocery shopping, I do enjoy food and therefore find myself at the grocery store at regular intervals.

What has never crossed my mind until quite recently however, was how much energy these supermarkets use to power their refrigeration systems. There are a lot of coolers and freezers in supermarkets and a lot of them are open to the air, which means they are running constantly and using up a significant amount of electricity.

According to Energy Star, supermarkets use about 50 kilowatt-hours per year. What does that translate to? Well, that kind of energy consumption equates to about $4 per square foot of space, and considering the average-sized supermarket is about 50,000 square feet, this ends up being around $200,000 per year in energy bills. That also mean 1,900 tons of CO2 emissions (the equivalent of the emissions of 360 vehicles) being stuffed into our atmosphere’s grocery bag every year. And that’s just for one supermarket. Yikes.

Seems as though the supermarket sector could benefit from an energy efficiency plan, n’est pas?

Luckily, some supermarket chains are taking steps to rein in their energy consumption and reduce their carbon emissions. We’ve discussed the various behavioural and organizational changes one can implement an energy efficiency plan (click here for a reminder), but technological changes can also be extremely effective. Yes, technological upgrades or retrofits can seem costly at first, but remember that the more energy efficient the systems are, the more dollars you’ll save on your energy bill. Everyone loves it when an investment pays for itself – just ask these guys.

Smartcool’s Monitoring &Verification team recently visited a local supermarket to download their energy consumption data from a logger we had previously installed. Check out the video of their little adventure! As you can see, there are a lot of compressors slogging away to keep the refrigeration system running and the food nice and cold. This is also where I finally took notice of how much energy it takes to run an average supermarket. Thankfully, this particular supermarket is taking the technological steps to become more energy efficient and, considering the above-mentioned CO2 tonnage that supermarkets contribute to our atmosphere, I’d say that’s a step in the right direction!

But what else does it mean? Well, since the profit margins in supermarkets are very thin (around 1-3%), it’s suggested that a 10% reduction in energy cost can increase net profits by as much as 16%! That, my friends, is significant and once again points out the win-win situation we can find ourselves in. Saving the planet and saving money while you’re at it!

Now, if you could excuse me, I’ve got to run out and get some milk…

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

3 Comments

  1. “supermarkets use about 50 kilowatt-hours per year”

    Is that figure right? Seems low. Should it instead read something like “supermarkets use about 50 kilowatt-hours per year per square foot”?

  2. Typo alert – Your article says supermarkets use 50 kWh per year. The Energy Star link you provide says they use 50 kWh per square foot per year.

    Quite a significant difference.

  3. Dan & Mark,

    You’re right. Thanks for noticing! The first sentence of the third paragraph is missing the “per square feet” part.

    Thanks again!

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