Jerry Lawson, Energy StarJerry Lawson, national manager of Energy Star’s Small Business & Congregations Network at the US Environmental Protection Agency, spoke with NFM about energy efficiency in food markets. Lawson stresses that not only can energy efficiency increase profits for retailers, it can also improve the customer experience. Refrigeration and lighting are the best places to save, and proper maintenance helps sustain efficiency. Finally, Lawson recommends taking advantage of Energy Star’s suggestions and resources meant just for grocery stores.


Energy efficiency isn’t just about being green, it’s about saving green. On average, grocery stores use about 50 kWh of electricity and 50 cubic feet of natural gas per square foot; that’s more than $4 in energy costs—usually 1 percent to 2 percent of sales. Energy Star, a joint program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy, has developed a comprehensive guide to help retailers mitigate these costs by offering advice on purchasing the most efficient equipment and maintaining it properly. Here, Jerry Lawson, a national manager for Energy Star, gives the basics.

Energy savings means increased profits
Many retailers are able to reduce energy costs about 30 percent with improved operation and maintenance strategies. To measure savings, owners should establish a "baseline" of use with Energy Star's online Portfolio Manager. Because profit margins are so thin, on the order of 1 percent, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that $1 in energy savings is the equivalent to increasing sales by $59.

Besides increased profitability from energy efficiency, the grocer can usually expect:

  • less vulnerability to energy-price fluctuations;
  • increased sales with better lighting and comfort;
  • reduced spoilage with upgraded equipment; and
  • an enhanced public image.

Energy efficiency can improve customer and employee comfort
Energy efficiency not only directly cuts energy costs, it can also enhance the shopping/working experience. A retailer who makes serious use of Energy Star tools can also document his success through "green marketing" in the community. If you become a partner, you can download co-branded items (like logos, table tents, etc.) from the Energy Star website and receive monthly small-business updates with new information on qualified products and success stories. Employees can also take additional pride in an energy-efficient workplace and even take the energy-savings lessons home.

Refrigeration and lighting are the No. 1 spots to save
For supermarkets and grocery stores, refrigeration typically makes up 43 percent of total electricity costs, followed by 17 percent for plug loads, 14 percent for cooling and 13 percent for lighting. Therefore, refrigeration—which is also critical to protecting perishables—is the most important equipment for efficiency in new-purchase, operation and maintenance strategies. While lighting is only slightly less expensive than cooling, lighting is critical to merchandising and sales, and inefficient lighting can add to cooling costs.

Keep equipment maintained and at the right settings
Energy Star recommends that heating/air-conditioning systems have a full maintenance check-up at least once a year, or preferably "pre-season" in places where there is a definite cooling and heating season. All other equipment should be maintained per the manufacturer’s warranty.

Equipment Area Maintenance Strategy
Refrigerated equipment/cold storage - Maintain appropriate temperature settings
- Keep evaporator coils clean
- Reduce air-leakage in refrigerated cases by replacing worn seals and gaskets
Hot-food prep - Minimize pre-heating by following manufacturer’s guidelines
- Set cooking schedules to use cooling equipment at full capacity
- Reduce air-leakage in ovens by ensuring doors fit tightly, with gaskets in good condition
Offices and back rooms - Keep HVAC settings at minimum heating/cooling levels during low occupancy hours
- Turn off all office equipment during non-business hours


Energy Star Tools