Retailers and renewables

Vicky Kenrick

Part 2. While US giants dominate the top five corporate retail solar users in terms of on-site capacity, Swedish firm IKEA is also taking strides in Europe.

For part 1 of this series click here.

As a step towards using only energy from renewable sources in its global operations, IKEA Group is currently investing in a new wind farm with 30 wind turbines on Glötesvålen, a mountain in Härjedalen, Sweden, for example.

This is one of the largest investments to date in a wind power project in the Nordic countries and one of the largest land-based wind power project's that work has started on so far in Europe during 2012. The investment will bring the total number of wind turbines owned by IKEA in Sweden to 39.

When operational, the 90MW Glötesvålen wind farm is estimated to generate 220GWh a year, equivalent to the annual electricity needs of approximately 48,000 homes. Construction started this summer and the wind farm is expected to be operational by the end of 2014 or early 2015.

“At IKEA, we want to take a leading role in the transition to a low-carbon society by only using 100 percent renewable energy in our global operations. By only using wind power in Sweden, it is an exciting and important step toward reaching that goal,” says Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer at the IKEA Group. “We will not only be self-sufficient in electricity in Sweden, generating enough to supply all IKEA buildings and operations in the country, but it will give us opportunities to supply IKEA stores in other countries with wind power.”

Meanwhile, another leading European retailer, Sainsbury, have been working with utility Eon on the installation of over 69,500 solar panels on almost 170 of its stores. This, as a result, gives Sainsbury's the title of Europe's top solar generator – it can boast 16MW of solar capacity spread across 169 of its 572 UK supermarkets.

“This solar rollout is another big step forward,” according to Justin King, Chief Executive of Sainsbury's. “It makes sense for us – it's good for the environment and for our business and we are actively looking to install more panels.”

Going underground

As well as tapping into renewable energy power sources well above the ground, Sainsbury has also just announced plans to work alongside Geothermal International to roll out an innovative energy solution to up to 100 stores, whereby geothermal energy will provide heating and hot water.

This project aims to deliver up to 100MW of renewable energy capacity in Sainsbury's supermarkets by the end of 2016. Along with large-scale solar power generation, the geothermal project is a key part of Sainsbury's 20 by 20 Sustainability Plan renewable energy commitment and to delivering a fully renewable heat strategy for its supermarkets by 2030.

“This major solar investment will make Sainsbury's a greener grocer and gives a significant boost to the UK's renewable energy sector,” suggested Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth's, Andrew Pendleton. With the commercial food sector being responsible for 20% of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions and more specifically the retail and distribution of food contributing approximately one third of this; it is positive to see UK supermarket giants leading the way in renewable energy development, he added.

Organisations throughout the UK (and further afield) are increasingly working alongside renewable energy developers and installers to reap the business and environmental benefits of using renewable energy and helping the UK reduce reliance on expensive fossil fuels. Furthermore, with new carbon reporting rules coming into effect in April 2013, organisations need to consider how they can bring down their greenhouse gas emissions.

Retailers are also likely to have more potential for effective energy management than other corporations. Their infrastructures combined with how they have efficiently defined responsibilities and have on-going targets and monitoring in place provide an organisational focus to improving energy efficiency.

Another way that retailers have been more efficient in the move to renewable energy development and usage than companies within other industries is also due to the attention they give to testing of new technologies and new approaches to energy efficiency. For example, the increasing number of “green stores” are significantly more efficient than existing stores and provide them with a competitive advantage and draw for their customers as well as the opportunity to implement renewable energy projects. Target setting and the delivery of more energy efficient processes is therefore monitored systematically with the build of each new store, enabling the ideal platform to develop renewable energy infrastructure.


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Energy efficiency  •  Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Geothermal  •  Green building  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Wind power