Retail Energy Article


Energy costs are on the rise and with extreme shifts in weather patterns, retailers and retail developers are experiencing significant impacts to their bottom line. Traditionally, energy is the fourth largest in-store operating cost for U.S. retailers (after labor, rent, and marketing), and weather conditions alone are a major contributor.

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2020 was a record-breaking year for outages across the U.S.1, with weather events primarily to blame. Retailers reported losing power at least once a month and 40% of those outages left them without power for longer than an hour. In fact, The Department of Energy estimates that power outages cost the U.S. economy $150 billion annually2.

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The implementation of distributed generation systems can provide peace of mind to retailers, and their sustainably-focused customers alike. While these systems increase efficiency and reduce energy operating cost, they also benefit the environment and are a testament to retailers' sustainability initiatives. Consumer preference and expectations for more sustainability-conscious brands and sustainable transparency within those brands are becoming more of a requirement. NielsenIQ’s corporate social responsibility survey reports that 55% of global respondents are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.

U.S. governmental mandates, more brands, and other countries are continuing to commit to net zero emission by 2050, or even earlier. Target is committed to be a net zero enterprise by 2040 and Walmart is committed to becoming a regenerative company powered by 100% renewable energy in their own operations by 2035, and are also currently investing in the technologies of tomorrow (Walmart).

Based on energy needs, goals, and location, there are several renewable energy options to consider:

  • Battery Energy Storage System (BESS): Rechargeable battery systems that store energy from the electric grid during off peak hours and provide that energy during the most expensive times of the day, resulting in significant savings during peak electrical demand hours. The value of BESS can be maximized when combined with an on-site solar system.
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  • Combined Heat and Power (CHP): Operating at 65% - 75% efficiency, a significant improvement to the national average of 50% from a traditional utility provider, CHP, sometimes referred to as cogeneration, produces both electricity and thermal energy on-site. This reduces line losses and strain on grid infrastructure while also increasing energy efficiency, reliability, and security. CHP can be utilized in industrial facilities and commercial buildings with coincident power and thermal loads.


  • Fuel Cell: While a typical battery has a fixed supply of energy, fuel cells continuously generate electricity as long as fuel is supplied. With low zero emissions, fuel cells can operate with efficiencies capable of exceeding 60%3. Fuel cell systems vary greatly in size and power, from commercial and industrial buildings to combustion engine replacements for electric vehicles and large-scale, multi-megawatt installations providing electricity directly to the utility grid.


  • Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging: With the rapid demand for electric vehicles and evolving legislations focused on enhanced sustainability measures, there is a growing need for EV Charging stations to power both passenger and heavy-duty fleet vehicles. This technology includes Level 1 (3 – 5 miles of range per hour of charging time), Level 2 (12 – 80 miles of range per hour of charging time), and Level 3 / DCFC (180 – 350 miles of range per hour of charging time).


  • Solar: Solar technologies convert sunlight into electrical energy either through photovoltaic (PV) panels or through mirrors that concentrate solar radiation. This energy can be used to generate electricity or be stored in batteries or thermal storage. Solar energy offsets the energy used during operations to aid in achieving net-zero goals. By integrating solar with battery storage, retailers can consume power on-demand and offset utility peak demand charges.
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From big box to small box and everything in between, the addition of distributed energy systems can help retailers achieve smart, healthy, and low-carbon operations within new and existing buildings. In addition, the current volatility of the energy market is a further incentive to identify more reliable solutions. Supply chain disruption is driving erratic, unpredictable gas pricing, which underscores the value and prudence of exploring reliable fueling options.

Ready to learn more? Whether you are moving toward a net-zero goal, looking to increase operating efficiencies, protecting your business from market volatility, or meeting the sustainability expectations of today’s consumers, Core States Energy’s in-house engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) resources help retailers increase operations and secure their sustainability goals.

1 Energy Information Administration (EIA)

2 Bloom Energy

3 Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

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Brian Baird, PMP, LEED AP

Director of Energy and Sustainability