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Chain Retailers Seeing More Than Retail Energy Savings in Outsourcing Energy Efficiency Management

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For owners and franchisees of multi store chain retail outlets, the news is increasingly real and positive. Not only are they achieving energy efficiency, they’re impressing their customers, too. What began as a trend to “go green” is now making real differences in profitability and the way consumers see brands. It can really be the difference between “going green” and “going out of business.”

A Crisis at Traditional Retail

Chain retailers face fierce competition today on many fronts, not least of which is just getting the customer into the store. Online sales continue to explode, and many retailers are slow to the party upgrading old buildings into attractive, energy-efficient buildings that enhance the overall customer experience at retail.

Some national retail brands were early adopters in the move toward energy efficiency, evolving their brands as “green” or “smart tech” early on. Lowe’s signed a renewable energy agreement in November 2018 that will provide for enough energy to power all of its 143 stores in Texas. Walmart has announced plans to emit zero carbon in its stores by 2040. And diverse brands such as Target, IKEA, and Giant Eagle already have begun energy efficiency programs throughout their U.S. locations. Today’s customer continues to reward them for it.

Many others are seeing the benefits of outsourcing comprehensive energy efficiency as a service from reliable providers, and they have recently expanded their retail energy savings across multiple store locations.

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that retail buildings account for the largest energy costs of any commercial sector in the country. Those energy costs mean there is significant room for retailers to reduce their utility bills and become more energy efficient.

Chain retailers must balance achieving these energy efficiencies with the potential impact they can have on operations and customer perceptions. Take grocery stores. Approximately 60% of the energy used in grocery chains is used to run refrigeration, heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, while 30% is consumed in lighting. Changing a store’s heating and cooling has a direct impact on customers and staff alike. Decisions on running truly energy efficient buildings can affect the overall customer experience.

In many cases, achieving retail energy savings today and for decades to come comes from upgrading an older space, either under the store’s own management or through an energy efficiency company. New equipment, lighting, HVAC, energy sensors and controls are just some of the ways chain retailers achieve long-term savings while enhancing the customer experience, drawing in new customers to traditional retail.

Energy Efficiency as a Service: A Resource Whose Time has Come

Recognizing the broad benefits of being known as a brand that creates and operates energy-efficient buildings throughout a commercial enterprise may only be the start for most chain retailers. How does one determine the right technologies to effect efficiency? How is this managed? What level of capital is involved? Should an energy efficiency company be consulted? How are these systems monitored, evolved and upgraded, and adapted as time goes on?

For many, outsourcing their energy management to achieve comprehensive retail energy savings is proving to be a viable strategy. Engaging with specialists to finance, upgrade and monitor energy-using systems has been a transformative factor across categories, from big brands like AT&T and KFC to smaller shops and facilities of all kinds. Energy efficiency as a service (also called EEaaS) is a solution being offered by a new category of energy efficiency company.  

The right energy outsourcing partner can manage and monitor every aspect of a client’s buildings, from lighting to HVAC, temperature, refrigeration and more, installing and monitoring state of the art sensors to reduce energy use and deliver savings to customers beginning on day one.

Achieving Energy Efficiency: Where Do I Begin?

Lighting accounts for 50% of energy costs for non-food retailers. The typical retail store costs $0.71 per square foot per year. This cost becomes exponential for chains. Renovation that utilizes daylight and other natural sources through windows and skylights is one way to reduce lighting costs. Installing today’s LED and T8 fluorescents draw less heat and electricity, potentially leading to 10% savings in monthly energy costs alone.

Installing occupancy sensors to reduce lighting loads in storage rooms, back offices and other low-traffic areas can contribute greatly to overall energy savings in lighting management.

HVAC accounts for approximately 45% of the energy consumption in an average retail business. Here, point of consumption smart meters, sensors and control technologies automate what most operations cannot, allowing for 24/7/365 monitoring and management.

Working with an energy efficiency company to establish comprehensive, integrated sensors and controls in these energy-using systems virtually ensures the beginnings of success for an energy efficiency program across the enterprise. Automated controls and monitoring vastly improve energy efficiency and operational management. This enhances the customer experience both in aesthetics and comfort, as well as elevating retail brands in the eyes of today’s consumer. As we say at Budderfly, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”


As founder and CEO of Budderfly, Al Subbloie is focused on disrupting the energy management space through a unique and highly compelling Energy-as-a-Service technology solution. His 35 years of experience include founding three companies and serving as a board member on several successful software and managed services companies. Subbloie is passionate about creating highly successful, disruptive go-to-market growth models. 

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