Energy Reduction: The Next Level

Suggestions for what to do after the easy wins are achieved

It’s a common retail scenario: Last year, several sites deployed consistent schedules and set-points and also staged energy-consuming assets into groups that engaged at different times of the day. These executed measures led to significant kWh savings.

As a result, the CFO wants to know what other energy reduction initiatives stores can take to save the organization even more money. Adopting a three-step approach of assessing the current situation, implementing cost-saving measures identified during the assessment, and analyzing the results can help steer sites into the green and an organization’s savings into the black.



It is important to gain a better understanding of an organization’s consumption footprint. As it is improbable to visit every site, consider deploying utility grade meters in individual locations. Installing meters can yield insight into your demand (kW) and consumption (kWh) and serve as leading indicators of problems.

First, identify the consumption distribution by type of site. This does not mean that you must understand the distribution of each site, as this would be too costly with too little payback. However, retailers have sites that have a similar demand profile, which is driven by variables such as design characteristics (number of HVACs or square footage), offerings (refrigerated goods sold at this location) and sales (high-traffic site or poor performer). The goal is to understand which assets drive energy consumption by location type through physical or virtual submetering.

Next, use this information to favorably impact your organization. In the scenario shown in the accompanying charts, submetering identifies lighting as roughly 64% of the total consumption for retailer #1, but with retailer #2 lighting accounts for 22% of the total. (Both stores are freestanding.)

 Assuming a 10% reduction in kWh due to a T8 retrofit or EMS controls implementation, retailer #1 will see an overall kWh decrease of 6.4%. Retailer #2 will witness roughly a 2.2% reduction.

Weighting impacts should be factored into the overall cost-benefit analysis of the options under consideration. Organizations seeking to drive efficiencies in the areas that account for the greatest percentage of their overall consumption see the most success. In this case, retailer #1 might try lighting improvements first, while retailer #2 could target refrigeration.


Make Time of Day Work for You

Concurrently, identify the period of the day when the least amount of activity occurs onsite. For most retailers, this is in the middle of the night.

First, identify the average overnight kW lows by site type. Then, proactively find the worst outlying 10% to 20% of sites and identify what is driving the deviation. Site by site, consider whether it is cost-effective to gain control of that load. 

Also, consider improvements that can be coupled with other, perhaps unrelated initiatives that require site visits to each location. These yield a higher ROI or payback. One such example is to gain control of plug loads so they may be turned off during unoccupied periods. Motion sensors can be used to turn lights off after hours in employee areas but can also turn them back on as needed.

Perhaps most importantly, view this effort as a continuous way of operating, rather than a project with a discrete beginning and end. To be self-sustaining, a company must standardize processes across sites and functional areas. For example, how do you plan to bring new construction locations up to the most recent codes and standards? Will new technologies be incorporated into the drawing sets? 

Also, while energy management is the group that provides focus to these opportunities at the corporate level, without the involvement of other stakeholders, such as operations, facilities, marketing and finance, success will be limited or even diminish over time.


Review the Results

Lastly, review the team’s results. Identify key metrics as well as a vehicle by which to disseminate the actual results relative to the goals with regular frequency. Then set incremental improvement targets annually (e.g., achieve 20% improvement in average overnight kW). Finally, ensure that each stakeholder constituency is incentivized commensurate with the targets. For instance, if energy reduction is the goal, operations stakeholders might have a percentage of their bonuses contingent on target achievement in that area.

Summing it up, implementing easy-to-achieve energy reduction initiatives is commendable. But such projects tend to be “one and done.” Tackling the next step is harder because it requires cross-functional alignment at the corporate level, cooperation and buy-in of retail locations, and process definition. Excelling at energy efficiency is an ongoing process and, in essence, an organizational mind-set. Implementing such savings measures can benefit headquarters and retail sites alike.


Lee Norman is director of client services for the retail and commercial systems group at Siemens Industry Inc., Austin, Texas (

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