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Putting energy into retail sustainability

Putting energy into retail sustainability
Written by Amy

As retailers come under increasing pressure from consumers to place sustainability high on their agenda, whilst energy costs continue to rise, Powerstar CEO Dr Alex Mardapittas explores how smart energy solutions, such as voltage optimisation, offer businesses a straightforward method of meeting these challenges.

Sustainability is an increasingly important concern for businesses in all sectors. However, due to its direct relationship with consumers and the importance of brand image influencing purchase decisions, retail is arguably under more pressure than most to improve efficiency and operate responsibly [1].

Whilst scrutiny over sustainability in the retail sector has focused heavily on the war on plastics, environmental challenges in supply chains and logistics are also a high priority. This had led to arguments over whether bricks and mortar, or online stores have a higher carbon footprint, highlighting the importance of the issue regardless of the nature of the retailer’s operations and route to market [2].

When making efforts towards minimising carbon footprint, and striving towards carbon neutrality, it is important that businesses consider how they manages their energy consumption. Retail outlets, both online and in-store are energy intensive environments due to their customer commitments, even more so in the winter because of extended opening hours and rapid delivery times.

Managing electricity consumption in particular can prove difficult due to the increasing digitisation of consumer experiences, and growing amounts of technology used in everyday functions. Furthermore, as the day-to-day use of electricity in retail has risen, the cost of commercial energy has been on a similar trajectory, posing a greater challenge to retail businesses.

Whilst there are many environmental initiatives that can increase costs for retailers [3], managing energy use through smart energy technologies is a proven method to realise immediate cost savings and CO2 reductions. Research shows that UK retailers alone could make £4.1 billion of savings through cutting 25% of their energy use by 2050 [4].

Voltage Optimisation (VO) is one such technology retailers can install to achieving significant consumption, cost and carbon emission reductions. This is because the National Grid, on average, supplies energy at around 242V, far higher than the optimal level required by most electrical equipment designed to EU design specifications, which is 220V. This is known as overvoltage, meaning more voltage is being used (and paid for) than required, resulting in inflated electricity bills, unnecessary carbon emissions, and increased wear and tear to on-site electrical equipment which can lead to premature burnout.

Voltage optimisation works by reducing the supply voltage to a more optimal level for on-site equipment. This provides instant savings to electrical consumption and therefore electricity costs and carbon emissions, because the excessively high voltage is no longer being consumed and paid for. This also prolongs the lifespan of on-site electrical equipment by reducing the risk of premature burnout, which, in turn, minimises equipment replacement costs.

Leading voltage optimisation solutions provide typical savings on annual electricity consumption of between 8 – 10%, with an average pay back period of 2 -4 years.  Trusted providers, such as Powerstar, also provide a 100% savings guarantee on its patented VO solutions, minimising risk of investment.

For further optimisations, voltage optimisation can be delivered as a smart solution with online remote monitoring capabilities. The platform provides operational data on energy assets, including electricity consumption, data trends, savings achieved, and electricity profiles, providing insight into the current efficiency of the energy profile of the site. This ensures it is performing optimally, and can identify further optimisations, such as power quality issues, for an ongoing solution for energy management.

Such insights can be actioned and enable retailers to make smarter decisions about their energy use, and continue improving their energy efficiency to maximise energy cost savings and reductions in carbon emissions. With growing customer expectations in terms of sustainability and service, this ultimately improves the bottom line to allow further investment into improving customer service and experience, whilst enhancing the business’s corporate social responsibility.

To find out more about energy management in retail visit Powerstar’s website here

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