Woolworths cuts power guzzlers

Woolworths, recognised worldwide for its good business journey, including goals of protecting the environment and reducing its carbon footprint by 30% by 2012, is showcasing its commitment in this year’s winning entry into the Commercial Category of the 2011 Eskom eta Awards.

The retailer worked together with its supplier, UGU Engineering Solutions to help sustain South Africa’s energy resources in the long term by investing R10,3 million over three years on an automated load control system.

Says Anton Kilian, Electrical Engineer – Woolworths Real Estate Development:  “We consider our good business journey as key to enhancing our brand while being cognisant of the impacts of our business on society and the environment.  We have realised over the past few years that our focus on social and environmental issues can drive innovation and operational efficiencies in our business.

“Internally, sustainability is one of our seven values, and we measure employee understanding and backing for our good business journey programme through our annual people survey, which has shown high levels of support.

“Energy usage has decreased by 18% from our 2004 benchmark, and we have successfully rolled out new lighting and energy measurement technologies, as well as retrofitting refrigeration technologies and reviewing distribution methods to meet our 30% relative reduction target by 2012.  When you have R220 million electricity bill as a group, this is a remarkable saving.

“With UGU Engineering Solutions’ automatic load control system, we have managed to save 11 783 253 kWh year-on-year in our 2010/2011 financial year using two years’ worth of measurable data gained from online metering, which equates to an independently verified 12,97% saving on the overall total,” says Anton.

These savings are realised outside of retail hours, from 19:00 to 09:00, by automatically switching off non-essential electrical appliances from a centralised server such as geyers, air-conditioning and lighting, which has translated into an R8,366 million saving year-on-year when compared with the 2009/2010 financial year.

UGU Engineering Solutions installed the inhouse customised software package which is controlled over the company’s WAN in 220 of Woolworth’s stores and has been commissioned to roll out to the remaining 89 stores by June 2012, representing 99% of the business.  The system has built in redundancy, which means that it can stand alone and any outages will not impact the sustainability of the solution.