Seattle City Light can’t make the broccoli you buy any greener, but it is working to help the grocery stores where you buy that broccoli cut their energy consumption and save money so those veggies stay crisp and affordable.
“Grocery stores, by their very nature, are big energy consumers,” said Glenn Atwood, City Light’s conservation resources director. “But there are lots of new technologies out there that can lower their electricity usage.”
Since 2009, Seattle City Light has helped about 270 grocery stores from convenience stores to warehouse grocers reduce their energy consumption by more than 11 million kilowatt-hours and save $650,000. That’s enough energy to power 1,200 Seattle homes.
At a Grocery Showcase Feb. 24 in the North Room of REI, 222 Yale Ave. N, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. City Light will highlight the wide range of rebates available to grocery stores that install energy saving technologies, such as efficient lighting, refrigeration, motors, heating, air conditioning, sealants and flexible doors. Some grocers also could qualify for financing through the City of Seattle’s Community Power Works program, which is supported by a $20 million federal stimulus package grant.
Lighting and refrigeration can account for up to 78 percent of the energy use in a store.
About 60 percent of the convenience stores in City Light’s service territory belong to the Korean Grocers Association.
K’s Deli and Grocery at 3950 Leary Way NW, has updated its refrigeration equipment, replaced fluorescent lighting with LEDs and installed energy efficient lighting controls.
Owner Ho Lim said he’s saving $200 to $300 a month thanks to the changes and the new lighting has enhanced the store’s appearance.
Savings like that is significant for a smaller store, Lim said. “I like what they’re doing. I can see the difference. Customers like it too!”
West Seattle Thriftway expects to cut its energy usage by 660,000 kilowatt-hours and save about $40,000 this year thanks to energy efficient equipment installed in December. You can see some of the improvements in this video.
“Not only are you doing something green, you’re saving some money doing it,” store owner Paul Kapioski said.
The store replaced several hundred fan motors in refrigeration cases, installed nighttime covers on open refrigeration cases, lowered the wattage on its fluorescent lighting and replaced track lighting and freezer lighting with light emitting diode (LED) technology. Kapioski saw a difference with the first electricity bill.
“As we see other costs increase, this is something you can go in and make a big dent in the the operating costs,” he said. “You have to turn the lights on no matter how much you sell. Power is one of the fixed costs you have no matter what. That goes directly to the bottom line.”
“When operating costs stay low, the store is able to keep prices low for its customers, Kapioski said. “Any time you can take money off the expense line that’s good for all of us.”
City Light contracts with a company called PECI to enroll grocers from small convenience markets to large warehouse stores in the incentive programs. The stores can then choose a contractor to install the appropriate equipment.
“Supporting energy efficiency at grocery stores is a win for everyone,” Atwood said. “It allows the utility to meet growing customer demand for energy without buying new, more expensive electricity supplies or building a power plant. It lowers operating costs for grocers. And it generates new, green jobs in our community.”
Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.