The Sky News program Smart Money recently discussed the energy efficiency goals for one of Australia’s biggest supermarket chains, and the advantages of LED lighting for all enterprises.

Coles keeps energy costs down

Energy efficiency initiatives at Coles have delivered millions of dollars in savings to the supermarket giant. Seven hundred Coles stores have had their power bills reduced by 10 per cent, with initiatives that can be taken up by businesses across all industries.

Mark McKenzie, energy manager at Coles Parramatta, recently spoke about energy efficiency on the Sky News Money program, Smart Money.

‘For every dollar that we save in our energy line, we can invest that straight back into value for our customers,’ Mr McKenzie told the show’s host, Jon Dee.

LED retrofits have been a significant focus for Coles, with savings of up to 80 per cent compared to other lighting methods. The need for maintenance is also greatly reduced.

‘We've recently retro-fitted all of our back-of-house in LED. Maintenance is a huge factor and we're finding that LED tubes, from a maintenance perspective, are far cheaper. If we don't have to send a tech up a ladder to change the tube, then that's saving us a big amount of money.’

The stores are also now able to control their lighting remotely, ensuring the lights are off after closing time.

New drivers of savings

Air-conditioning and refrigeration are another major energy expense for Coles. The company is installing variable speed drives to regulate the operation of equipment, which used to run ‘flat-out’ most of the time. The new drives significantly reduce costs by calling on energy only when required.

Coles is also using power factor correction to ensure that only the power necessary to run equipment is drawn from the grid. Additionally, voltage optimisation controls the amount of voltage coming into the stores. ‘It's been the most significant investment-in-energy initiative that Coles has ever done,’ Mr McKenzie explained. ‘And we're seeing reductions at between 7 and 8 per cent.’

Another innovation is the use of CCTV to monitor where operators are pulling down night blinds to conserve energy in open refrigerator units at closing times. This has increased night-blind deployment from 35 per cent to more than 85 per cent.

LED illuminates the future for industry

In the next segment of the program, Jon Dee discussed LED technology with Bryan Douglas, CEO of Lighting Council Australia, and Ian Johnston, head of the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) EcoSmart program.

‘I've noticed lately that the McDonald's yellow arches are now using LED,’ Jon Dee said to Mr Douglas. ‘You must be very pleased to see that as a development. Are many other businesses taking on LED lighting?’

Mr Douglas replied, ‘We estimate around 80 per cent of new installations are now using LED. So in the last 12 months in particular there's been a huge uptake of the technology.

‘The technology's very efficient. It can last a long time, up to 50 times longer than the traditional incandescent lamps that many people are familiar with, but there are other advantages as well.'

‘There is no mercury in LEDs,' Mr Douglas continued. 'They are instantly bright when you switch them on, unlike some other lighting technologies, and it's a highly adaptable technology. It can be used as an internet node for example and so very adaptable with all those other qualities.’

Mr Dee pointed out that LED technology brings savings in maintenance, in addition to energy costs.

Mr Johnston agreed, noting, ‘The case studies that McDonald's reported back to the government actually indicated that their saving was greater in the area of maintenance reductions than it was in energy saving.’

It’s payback time

When asked about the investment costs for small businesses, Mr Douglas explained that the payback period for installing LED was generally less than two years. ‘If you're replacing halogen technology for example, 35 or 50 watt halogen lamps, it can be assured to six months, so it can be very, very short,’ he added.

On the subject of halogen lighting, Mr Johnston commented, ‘There's close to three-hundred million halogen lamps currently in service around the country both in residential applications and retail businesses. So they're prolific within all aspects of lighting application.

‘One of the myths out there in the public is that it's low voltage, low energy and that's not actually the case. A 50 watt halogen lamp uses 50 watts of energy plus the transformer losses. Changing over to LED technology can reduce that 50 or 60 watts down to seven or eight watts.’

Buyer beware

Jon Dee raised the concern that dud LED lights are out there in the marketplace.

Mr Douglas advised, ‘Look for a good quality supplier, perhaps a name you know, someone you can be confident in that's going to be around for some time. My own organisation [Lighting Council Australia] also runs a certification program for LEDs called the SSL quality scheme. You can go to our website and find products that carry our SSL label.’

The segment concluded with Mr Johnson saying, ‘lighting may contribute to 80 per cent of a retail business' operation with regard to their energy cost, so if you can reduce that by adopting LED lighting there's substantial savings that can be achieved there.’

The Smart Money segment featuring the LED lighting discussion can be viewed on the Sky News website.

Jon Dee’s book, EnergyCut book is available as a free PDF (19 MB) and is supplemented by the online Step-Selector.

EEX features energy efficiency information for Small business, covering multiple industrial sectors. See also the Lighting technology page.

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