At Sobeys in Nova Scotia, lights, motors…and going green

Last fall not-for-profit Efficiency Nova Scotia handed out its “Bright Business Awards,” recognizing companies in Nova Scotia that have been leaders in finding ways to be more energy efficient.

Among those receiving awards was Sobeys, which has managed to cut its power usage by roughly 4,900,000 kw/h per year since starting an efficiency program at its stores in the province in 2009.

In an industry where profit margins are notoriously slim, cutting energy usage isn’t just the right thing to do from an environmental perspective, it also makes financial sense.

“We’re always trying to look for where the opportunities are to both save money and use less power, which is good for the environment and good for the bottom line,” Keith Ross (photo above), senior manager of maintenance and sustainability for Sobeys Atlantic.

In Sobeys case, the introduction of LED lights and more efficient freezer and refrigerator cases, as well as better use of natural light in the stores, has worked out to a savings of roughly $500,000 annually across the province.

Efficiency Nova Scotia is an independent corporation (founded in 2009 following an act by the provincial legislature) that provides financial incentives for people and companies to cut their electricity use. Stephen Crane is a business development manager with Efficiency Nova Scotia, and was the liaison with Sobeys. He says helping Sobeys become more efficient require a two-pronged approach.

“We have an instant rebate approach, where if you buy a certain product, you get an instant rebate without any type of evaluation,” Crane said. “We’d just have a person go out and say ‘OK, you have this many LED refrigerator lights’ Or we’d do a custom project, which would be like an energy efficient light retrofit. Those projects are a little larger in scope.”

Crane said that Sobeys has become an industry leader in energy efficiency thanks in no small part to the leadership of Ross. “He’s always asking ‘Can we get more efficient refrigeration, efficient lighting?’ Sobeys brought a lot of these ideas forward.’ ”

Ross says most of the changes needed weren’t particularly drastic, but included things like a move to LED case lights, rather than fluorescent, lighting retrofits, variable speed HVAC units and automatic sensors on the heaters in glass doors.

“When the humidity and heat is such inside the building that you have issues with condensation, the doors have heaters on them, he said. “But at certain times of the year, you don’t need them. They go on and off automatically now.”

One of the changes Ross was most impressed with was the move to LED case lights. Not only do the lights use less energy they regular lights, they don’t generate heat either, which helps save on refrigeration costs. “It’s a simple thing,” he says

He adds that working with Efficiency Nova Scotia has made it very easy for Sobeys to meet their energy saving goals.

“The ease of the program is great. It’s very simple to use, very simple to get a response back from them,” he says. “You make a decision and it’s easy to move forward with it.”

Ross says that when Sobeys started this initiative back in 2008, things like energy efficient cases were much rarer than they are today.

“LED case lights and energy efficient motors, which were options on products when we started this, have become standard now,” he says. “You would be hard pressed to order a case now with regular motors.”