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Driving Efficiency 
Survey shows retailers are setting goals, taking actions to improve energy efficiency, lower costs

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Energy cost savings, government incentives, and customer attraction and retention are driving energy efficiency in the retail sector, according to the results of the fifth annual global “Energy Efficiency Indicator” survey. The survey of nearly 4,000 building owners and operators representing 24 industry segments worldwide was led by Johnson Controls’ Institute for Building Efficiency, the International Facility Management Association and the Urban Land Institute.


According to the report, energy management is important to every industry the survey represents. For members of the retail sector, 28% agreed that energy management was important to their organization, and 35% reported that their organization will pursue green building certification in the next 12 months. 


Other questions elicited responses that indicate a growing interest on the part of retail professionals in energy management, with 50% reporting that their organizations have an energy-reduction goal. In addition, 72% said they are paying more attention to energy than they did one year ago.


Even more encouraging, the survey showed that as many as 80% of respondents in the retail sector have invested in energy projects, and 91% have taken actions to reduce energy use in the past year. 


The top two reasons for these actions align with those of global respondents — energy cost savings and government and utility incentives and rebates. However, the third reason — customer attraction and retention — ranks much higher for the retail sector than other survey respondents. This suggests that retailers are responding to customer interest in energy efficiency with energy-saving goals and projects in an effort to retain and attract business.


But even as retailers take steps to improve energy efficiency, they report barriers to their success. Agreeing with global respondents, 30% of retailers cited a lack of funding to pay for improvements as the leading barrier, followed closely (25%) by an insufficient payback or return on investment. Another 14% regarded uncertainty about savings/performance as a barrier, while only 8% pointed to a lack of technical expertise to evaluate or execute projects.


Tools to overcome these barriers exist, and the survey suggested retailers are using them with increasing frequency.


As technology develops and becomes less costly to integrate, more retailers are inquiring about energy monitoring devices and control systems. And retailers that operate smaller facilities are taking advantage of economies of scale, grouping facilities together as they pursue energy-efficient strategies.


The survey showed that less expensive lighting technologies (energy-efficient bulbs, lamps, ballasts and fixtures) are popular with retailers, with 73% making lighting improvements in the last 12 months. Another 63% reported making improvements to their heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems and/or controls during this same period.


In addition to technology changes, organizational changes are challenging barriers to energy efficiency. An analysis of the nearly 4,000 responses revealed four factors that correlate with more energy efficiency, clean energy and smart building actions. Of the four, adding internal or external resources and using external financing are helping global respondents in general (54% and 58%) and retail respondents in particular (44% and 48%) overcome financing and payback barriers. 


The remaining two factors, ranked one and two globally and for the retail sector, include setting a reduction goal and analyzing energy data frequently.


The survey makes it clear that retailers face significant barriers to energy management. However, survey results also indicate that despite these barriers, retailers are setting goals and taking actions to improve energy efficiency, reducing energy costs and attracting customers in the process. 


Bill Schaphorst, director of retail, Johnson Controls, a global diversified technology and industrial leader, offering quality products, services and solutions to optimize energy and operational efficiencies of buildings; lead-acid automotive batteries and advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles; and interior systems for automobiles (johnsoncontrols.com).

© 2014