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Incentives help Sears Canada reduce annual electricity bill by $2 million

As the winner of Canada’s Energy Star retailer of the year award for five consecutive years, Sears Canada is the industry leader in providing, sustainable, energy-efficient products and services.

With a Canada-wide network of nearly 500 full-line department stores, dealer stores, home improvement stores, outlet stores, travel offices and over 1800 catalogue merchandise pick-up locations, Sears Canada “wants to nurture a culture of sustainability in the communities where we operate,” says Dr. James Gray-Donald, Sears Associate Vice-President and Sustainability Leader.

In 2011, Sears invested more than $4.5 million to meet its long-term sustainability goals and reduce its electricity costs. This involved replacing more than 116,000 incandescent spotlights with energy-efficient LED lamps in its department stores and Sears Home stores. Sixty-watt incandescent lamps were replaced with high efficiency 15-watt LED bulbs. In Ontario, where the company operates the majority of its stores, more than 45,000 lamps, or more than one-third of the total across Canada were replaced.

“We believe it is the largest LED replacement project in North America,” Dr. Gray-Donald says. It will reduce the  company’s projected electricity costs across Canada by more than $2 million per year, or by about five per cent of its total annual electricity costs.

A key factor in the decision to retrofit the stores was the availability of government financial incentives. “The project would not have gone ahead at this time without the incentives,” Dr. Gray-Donald says. The incentives meant the project had a payback period of less than two years.

Sears expects to receive incentives totaling approximately $775,000 through the saveONenergy RETROFIT PROGRAM.
saveONenergy FOR BUSINESS offers commercial businesses a range of substantial financial incentives when they invest in energy efficient equipment and upgrades that produce energy savings. The RETROFIT PROGRAM provides incentives of up to 50 per cent of the cost of installing high efficiency lighting and equipment that reduce electricity use.

The RETROFIT PROGRAM and other saveONenergy FOR BUSINESS programs are delivered by local electric utilities across Ontario. The local electric utilities work with businesses in identifying the incentives that are available to help them reduce their electricity costs. Other than lighting, businesses can reduce their operational costs by improving the efficiency of their fans, pumps, variable speed drives or HVAC systems to name a few.

For multi-site businesses such as Sears, a National Account approach is taken. This simplifies the process for businesses enabling them to deal with one entity such as a lead local electric utility or a saveONenergy National Accounts Business Manager rather than several local electric utilities. For this project, a hybrid model was chosen. Hydro One acted as the lead local electric utility and the Ontario Power Authority provided communication and administrative support for the rest of the 28 electric utilities that were involved in this project.

Sears communicated primarily with Hydro One and in doing so developed a positive working relationship. Hydro One – which distributes electricity in many other parts of Ontario, assessed the incentives and documentation, and verified data.

Before launching the Canada-wide project, Sears undertook extensive testing ranging from the reliability of products to the effect of LED lights on customer sales. A positive unexpected result seen during the pilot program was a drop in the number of returns of merchandise due to the wrong colour. “ The LEDs we used in the pilot have a truer colour in comparison to the older incandescent lamps”, Dr. Gray-Donald says.

While customers did not comment specifically on the change to LED lamps, there was a positive reaction from employees. “We achieved our objective of getting energy savings and having the retail space look the same or better,” he says.

The retrofit project is expected to produce energy savings of 8,100 megawatt-hours and a reduction of 71 million kilograms of carbon over the 10-year life of each lamp.

Sears expects a further three per cent reduction in its electricity costs in 2012 when it installs more than 700,000 higher efficiency fluorescent light fixtures in stores across Canada, Dr. Gray-Donald says.

Sears will then investigate the recommissioning of its building automation systems. “We will be following a similar process that we followed with lighting – identify where we see savings and develop a plan with the local electric utilities before implementation,” Dr. Gray-Donald says. This project will likely be followed by real-time energy monitoring to further control Sears’ energy use and take advantage of potential additional saveONenergy incentives.

Sears Canada Inc. was named Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Star Retailer of the Year in 2012, the fifth time the company has received the award since the program began in 2003. The conversion to LED lights was completed in August 2011.
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