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Advance Auto Parts Reduces Energy Use


When it comes to energy efficiency, Advance Auto Parts has learned that it pays to be aggressive. By pursuing a multi-faceted approach to energy management, the chain has reduced both its consumption and operating costs.

Since 2004, Advance estimates it has saved more than 56,000 megawatt hours of electricity using energy-efficient lighting and building controls. That is equivalent to shutting down every Advance Auto operation, nationwide, for two calendar months.

“From energy-efficient lighting to building controls to participating in energy-reduction programs with our utilities, we have been beating the drum of energy efficiency for the past several years,” said James Curry, energy and systems manager, Advance Auto Parts, Roanoke, Va., which operates about 3,407 stores.

One of its major initiatives involved a chain-wide lighting retrofit whereby the high-intensity discharge lamps in its stores were replaced with high-efficiency T8 fluorescent lamps. The initiative was completed in 2009.

“Our entire chain is on T8s now,” Curry said.

According to Curry, the T8s have not only maintained the light levels of the previous high-intensity discharge lamps, but have resulted in improved store appearance in most cases, when compared with the older HID technology.

“The high-intensity lamps faded in color and power,” he said, “and had twice the amount of electrical consumption per lumen compared with the T8s. In some cases, we were able to reduce the lighting load in the stores by half.”

Building controls: In another crucial initiative, Advance is in the process of rolling out a building controls system across its portfolio. The system, from Teletrol Systems, Manchester, N.H., was chosen as the go-forward building controls platform for all new and some existing stores.

Advance wanted to be able to collect and analyze energy-usage data from all its stores, and also required an easy-to-use product that could operate advanced control schemes to squeeze more money out of the stores beyond the initial windfall in utility cost reductions that is common post-installation.

“We knew the five key attributes that make a store a high priority for the EMS system and targeted those locations first,” Curry explained. “When you have as many stores as we do, the savings add up very quickly.”

Beyond the energy savings, the system has other advantages, including remote diagnosis of potential equipment problems, resulting in reduced maintenance and repair costs.

“I call it smart dispatching,” Curry added. “For example, if we get a call that a store is too hot, before we send out an electrician or HVAC tech, and determine if a breaker needs to reset or if a component has failed. This give the technician more information prior to his arriving at the store. The ability to diagnose many problems right from my desk—and to see when a problem is not really a problem at all—is a big advantage.”

The improved visibility and energy data offered by the system allows Advance to participate in demand-response and load-shedding programs offered by its utility providers. The retailer partnered with Southern Co., Atlanta, to place 112 stores in Georgia on a time-of-use rate structure. By using its EMS, Advance was able to mitigate peak electricity usage and cut costs.

“We partnered with our store teams to ensure that store climate never grew too hot during the summer peak periods,” Curry said. “The key to the successful partnership was communication to stores. A sign in the front entrance of the store alerted customers as well.”

This program paid big dividends, Curry added, but the best part is that it was almost zero cost to implement.

“Leveraging EMS in low-cost, no-cost programs in this economic climate is a big help to Advance’s bottom line,” he said.

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