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Social Responsibility

Prescription for Energy Savings

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A uditing and improving energy usage has been on Rite Aid’s radar for some time. Over the past five years, the nation’s third-largest drugstore chain has made significant investments in initiatives promoting efficient energy use by making changes to its HVAC systems and lighting, as well as enhancements to waste reduction programs.

Last year Rite Aid recycled 61,000 tons of cardboard and 910,000 fluorescent lamps, and estimates that it has reduced its overall annual electricity consumption by 96 million KWh — equivalent to 65,000 tons of CO² emissions.

On the global stage, Rite Aid is a shining example of energy and resource management. The company was recently ranked 312th (out of 500) by Newsweek magazine in its 2011 Newsweek Green Rankings, comparing the environmental footprints, management (policies, programs, initiatives, controversies) and reporting practices of large, typically multi-national companies.

Rite Aid has also made modifications to its physical locations, including vestibules that form an airlock, minimizing heat transfer when customers enter and exit; light-colored, single-ply roofing that reduces summertime heat gain and diminishes the need for air conditioning; insulation level requirements that exceed building code, as well as insulated glazing and films to reduce solar heat gain; and redesigned storefront window systems with thermally separated interior and exterior frames.

On the electrical and plumbing side, systems have been engineered with high-efficiency heating and cooling mechanical units to conserve energy and provide effective ventilation through outside air exchange. Stores have deployed fluorescent or compact fluorescent lamps in place of higher-watt incandescent or halogen lamps, as well as digitally controlled building energy management systems.

HVAC systems are now controlled via networked thermostats, which can be monitored and adjusted remotely. Early alarms allow the company to proactively repair equipment prior to catastrophic failures. Rite Aid is also employing low-flow plumbing fixtures that use less water per flush.

Every store manager receives an Energy Policy and a 20 Point Energy Savers Checklist in his repair and maintenance manual. The checklist encourages store associates to promote the efficient use of resources and proactively point out potential sources of waste. As a result of such programs, Rite Aid received a Gold rating in the 2008 Connecticut Summer Savers Award contest for reducing electricity consumption and demand by more than 25 percent at the Rite Aid in Waterbury.

Rate monitoring and optimization
Last December, Rite Aid selected Ecova to provide utility expense and energy management services. A total energy and sustainability management company, Ecova works with about 40 percent of North America’s large chain retailers to provide technology, best practices and knowledge sharing that help clients see more, save more and sustain more.

Ecova will play an integral role in helping Rite Aid reduce the energy consumed across its 4,700 pharmacies nationwide. When it begins working with a client, that company typically performs an audit and gathers “detailed energy use across the portfolio of properties,” says Jeff Heggedahl, CEO of Ecova. Obtaining reporting data from all locations by type, use, size and geography enables analysis, and “Capturing the data cleanly is the key step to accurate and useful analysis,” he says.

The analysis is then used to identify and make actionable projects to lower energy use and improve savings. That analysis could help Rite Aid take a bite out of its energy needs as the company expands the number of stores operating around the clock, increases the food and beverage offerings that require refrigeration or transitions to its newest “wellness” format, which features interactive elements.

Ecova’s software monitors rates and helps ensure that Rite Aid is getting the best deal possible from the large number of utilities serving the company. The information is provided to the Rite Aid energy management team in a dashboard format as aggregated billing information and energy use data.

Using site energy consumption data and proprietary utility tariff models, the Ecova system (Rate Monitoring and Optimization service and Energy Supply Management) can evaluate and recommend optimum energy rate options as well as energy-related tax alternatives. The Ecova dashboard provides analytics toward that end, helping identify best practices across the company and working to help apply them to as many locations as appropriate.

With access to Rite Aid’s utility consumption data, Ecova will be able to help the company make informed decisions concerning facility upgrades, such as whether or not to retrofit lighting and when it would be beneficial to replace HVAC systems. Ecova’s monitoring and measurement of the effectiveness of energy programs will further aide in the reduction of Rite Aid’s environmental impact and improved operating efficiency.

“The first step in better energy management is having a solid, tested and reliable data set about the amount and types of energy being used across our stores,” says Paige Miller, senior manager, energy and environment, at Rite Aid. “Ecova brings a depth and breadth of experience, unique client focus and integrity to their work. Together, we’ll be able to improve our cost savings and environmental footprint company-wide.”