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Albertsons Nets 1 Billion Kilowatt Hours

Boise-based Albertsons says it has saved about 1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity since 2000 by continually improving new store designs and aggressively retrofitting old ones. By Linda Anderson

Boise-based grocery chain Albertsons says it has saved about 1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity since 2000 by continually improving new store designs and aggressively retrofitting old ones. Now being purchased for $17.4 billion by Supervalu Inc., CVS Corp. and an investor group, Albertsons' long-term efforts toward energy efficiency are less certain. By Linda Anderson

When Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, grocery chain Albertsons, like other businesses around the country, knew skyrocketing energy bills would soon follow. To prepare for the sticker shock, it tightened its corporate belt.

"We immediately reduced lighting and assigned an energy captain to each store to look for energy waste," said Scott Moore, Albertsons' director of energy management and procurement in Boise. "These people educate employees on better ways to operate and become more aware of energy waste."

Employees and those who keep tabs on the Boise-based grocery chain were not surprised by the company's actions. Moore said since late 1999 Albertsons has aggressively sought to use less energy and operate in a more environmentally friendly fashion.

On Jan. 23, Albertsons announced it is being purchased for $17.4 billion by Minneapolis, Minn.-based Supervalu Inc., drug store chain CVS Corp. and a New York-based investor group. The Albertson name is expected to remain if the deal is finalized in mid-2006, but the long-term impact on the grocer's energy-efficiency efforts remains to be seen.

The company has saved about 1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity since 2000 by building more efficient stores and retrofitting older stores, Moore said. It has completed 5,000 separate improvement projects, such as installing energy management systems that control heating, cooling, indoor and outdoor lighting, refrigeration systems, and hot water tanks.

"We have 240,000 employees and probably every one of them has taken ownership of this idea," said Shannon Bennett, an Albertsons spokeswoman. “It's not just Scott's team. The entire company has embraced the idea of conservation.”

And it was meant to be more than a passing fancy.

“We've designed this to be a continuous process-improvement program, not something you do and then you’re done,” Moore said. “You get done upgrading something and there’s some new technology you can apply again.”

The chain’s aggressive retrofit program includes upgrading indoor lighting to T8 fluorescent lamps, installing motion sensors on lights and adding miser controls on vending machines. The company has installed frozen food cases with anti-condensate heater controls in the glass doors. It has also installed more efficient lighting in its distribution centers and offices.
On new construction projects, Moore works with a group of internal stakeholders, including operations, finance and architecture.

“We have a corporate energy strategy that reaches into all parts of the company, from purchasing to the store level,” he said.

For new stores, the company developed a model store with specific design criteria -- a model that can be duplicated throughout the country. The design is constantly adapted to incorporate new technologies, Moore said.

In 2000, Christopher Meek of the Seattle BetterBricks Lighting Design Lab worked with the company on lighting designs for its then-current criteria store. He said the goal was to develop a skylight design layout that provided at least half of the store’s lighting (averaged during the year) with daylighting.

“You can’t provide daylighting deep into a space like that because of shelves,” he explained. “The only real strategy for daylight is through skylights.”

Meek said the lab anticipated that, with skylights and energy-efficient strip fluorescents, Albertsons would save 50% on its lighting costs in the central sales floor area.

The grocer continues to test various new lighting technologies, according to Moore. It is pilot testing LED (light-emitting diode) technology and fiberoptics in Idaho and California, and it is also working with Southern California Edison’s Lighting Technology Center in Irwindale, Calif.

In Worcester, Mass., a 78,000-square-foot Shaw grocery store completed by Albertsons in 2005 received the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification by employing energy-efficient HVAC systems and controls, refrigeration leak detection technology and water-saving fixtures.
Albertsons Chairman and CEO Larry Johnston said in a statement the company will “continue to pursue opportunities to seek LEED certification in additional stores.”

The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance has targeted the grocery chain segment as a prime candidate for energy savings. It has estimated the total cumulative grocery chain energy savings potential in the Northwest to be about 24 average megawatts (aMW). By 2025, the number approaches 40 aMW.

This article has been reprinted courtesy of nw current, a publication of the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. It was first published in January 2006.

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