At a time of escalating environmental concerns and rapidly changing consumer preferences, industries around the world are being forced to re-evaluate their practices and adopt sustainable approaches. Among them, the retail sector has become a crucial focal point for energy management and conservation efforts.
This article looks at the dynamic landscape of energy management and conservation in the retail sector, focusing on the Irish and UK markets, through the Success Story of Woodie’s, a 100% Irish-owned DIY Store.
Energy Management in Retail: a Necessity
The retail sector makes a significant contribution to energy consumption due to its vast network of shops, distribution centres and operational facilities. With rising energy costs and increased environmental awareness, retailers are under pressure to minimise their carbon footprint while maximising operational efficiency.
Energy management has therefore become an essential strategy that not only reduces costs but also aligns with corporate social responsibility objectives and enhances brand value.
The Retail Landscape in Ireland and in the UK
In both Ireland and the UK, the retail sector plays a vital role in the national economies. The UK retail sector is made up of over 300,000 distinct businesses and over 3 million people are employed in the sector, accounting for over 8% of all UK jobs.
On the other hand, Ireland’s retail sector is the country’s largest industry and the biggest private sector employer, with almost 300,000 workers, 3 out of 4 of whom are based outside Dublin. Of the 37,400 retail and wholesale businesses in Ireland, 85% employ fewer than 10 people.
With a significant number of shops, supermarkets, shopping centres and warehouses spread across these regions, energy consumption is considerable.
The retail sector accounts for around 25% of worldwide emissions, a large proportion of which occurs in the retail value chain. Just in the United Kingdom, retail accounts for 17% of the energy used by all buildings, just as much as the office and industrial sectors, thus making it a major contributor to carbon emissions.
Ireland, in particular, has set ambitious targets to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050, underlining the urgent need for businesses to adopt energy-efficient practices. The UK is also committed to reducing emissions and transitioning to cleaner energy sources.
5 Tips to Save Energy in Shops
As we mentioned above, in the retail sector, the search for energy savings is of considerable importance, not only because of its impact on financial savings but also because it is part of responsible environmental practices.
Retail establishments, from small shops to vast supermarkets, consume considerable reserves of energy, mainly to meet lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling needs, as well as refrigeration requirements.
The implementation of energy-saving measures not only improves the bottom line but also signifies a deep commitment to corporate social responsibility and the reduction of the ecological footprint.
Here we look at 5 effective strategies that can contribute to energy conservation in your shop:
- Efficient lighting systems:
The transition to energy-efficient lighting solutions, including LED (Light Emitting Diode) bulbs, plays a key role in reducing energy consumption. LEDs are characterised by their low electricity consumption, long life and low heat emission compared with conventional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. To optimise the energy consumption of lighting systems, motion detectors and automatic dimming mechanisms should be added to this transition for areas with occasional pedestrian traffic.
- Holistic optimisation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning:
Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems, while essential for ensuring indoor comfort, are also major energy consumers in commercial spaces. Scheduling regular system maintenance, reinforcing insulation structures and orchestrating strategic equipment upgrades collectively help to improve the efficiency of HVAC systems. Integrating intelligent thermostats and zone-based heating/cooling systems allows energy use to be targeted only where it is needed.
- Adopt energy management systems (EMS):
Integrating an energy management system like the Spacewell Energy (Dexma) Platform provides retailers with a robust mechanism for monitoring and controlling energy consumption in real-time. Such systems provide information on trends in energy consumption, enabling timely intervention to optimise energy use and reduce waste.
- Employee empowerment and education:
Educating employees on the importance of saving energy and implementing basic energy-saving practices is the first step towards cultivating an organisational energy-efficiency culture.
- Improve window configuration and insulation:
The judicious use of well-insulated windows and well-sealed entrances helps maintain indoor temperature balance, easing the burden on HVAC systems. Additional strategies, such as reflective films and blinds, extend the benefits by reducing solar gain and avoiding the need for additional cooling mechanisms.
Energy Management in the Retail Sector: The Success Story of Woodie’s
This case study highlights the essential role of innovation in reshaping the retail sector. It focuses on Woodie’s, a major retail chain operating in Ireland. This forward-thinking retailer recognised that it was imperative to reduce energy costs and their impact on the environment.
Woodie’s is a 100% Irish-owned DIY shop and a subsidiary of Grafton Group plc. They are the market leader in Ireland with thirty-five branches across the country offering a wide range of DIY products.
Woodie’s is supported by our Partner Energy & Technical Services (ETS), a European energy management and building technology consultancy. ETS follows a data-driven approach that uses real-time energy consumption data to generate sustained energy and CO2 savings.
Woodie’s also uses the Spacewell Energy (Dexma) platform to monitor energy consumption in all 35 branches (+ head office) in Ireland on a half-hourly basis. The map function of the Spacewell Energy (Dexma) platform provides a geographical view of each branch and a color-coded benchmark. Each branch, with the lowest to the highest energy consumption, is categorised using various criteria. This function shows the user at a glance which branches in the entire portfolio are performing best or worst.
Energy-reducing measures can be defined on this basis. Automated notifications inform users regarding excessive energy consumption and help identify patterns of behaviour. This creates outstanding opportunities to save energy on an ongoing basis and substantially increase sustainability.
The Road to Success
The first step in Woodie’s energy management journey was to carry out comprehensive energy audits across its branches. Using advanced data analysis, the company identified patterns of energy consumption, highlighting areas of waste and inefficiency. This granular understanding enabled informed decision-making and targeted interventions.
Embracing smart technologies, Woodie’s has enabled real-time monitoring of energy usage. Smart sensors, connected lighting and HVAC systems were deployed to optimise energy consumption, reacting dynamically to occupancy levels and external conditions. This holistic approach has enabled transparent control of energy-consuming systems, minimising waste.
At the heart of Woodie’s success is a commitment to continuous monitoring and adaptation. Real-time data has enabled the company to monitor the impact of the strategies implemented and make the necessary adjustments to further improve energy efficiency.
Learn how Woodie’s have reduced their energy consumption, saved a lot of money and overcome many challenges. Download the (free) success story now: