Thrifty Foods cuts energy use by 18% through upgrades (and people power)

Image of Jerry Wyshnowsky, Energy Manager for Thrifty Foods
Energy manager Jerry Wyshnowsky says management and staff engagement are key to energy saving success.

Power Smart changes save enough to power 966 homes a year

With new direct digital controls added to lighting, heating, and refrigeration equipment at half of its locations, Thrifty Foods has made a big cut in energy use. But according to energy manager Jerry Wyshnowsky, engaging management and staff is the real key to energy saving success.

From senior positions on down, people are engaged

Wyshnowsky starts by including senior management in quarterly reviews of the company's Strategic Energy Management Plan, developed through the company's work with BC Hydro's Power Smart Partner program.

"Reviewing the plan with executives lets them see the value of the upgrades in energy and greenhouse gas reductions," says Wyshnowsky. "That way the work never fades into the background. It keeps the [energy efficiency] goals up front across the organization and helps to sustain project funding in the budget."

Wyshnowsky also gives regular presentations to store managers and other key stakeholders at the company's retail operations meetings. Since about 90 per cent of the company's staff works in the stores, Wyshnowsky uses updates to the managers as a means of reaching out to the staff.

"Having the staff on board is critical," he says. "They are at the core of our success with sustainability. In the stores without automation, the staff controls all the lighting and thermostats.

"And even in the stores that are automated, we rely on staff to turn off equipment such as soup warmers and shrink wrappers when they're not being used."

People power is paying off. In the last year Thrifty Foods completed 50 energy efficiency projects. Now they're seeing significant reductions in energy use.

LED refrigerator lighting saves twice

One of the most common upgrades for retail stores is to replace older high bay metal halide lighting and T12 fluorescents with more efficient T5s coupled with LED accent lighting.

As well, store upgrades generally include new, energy efficient refrigerator cases offering features such as LED lighting, efficient fans and coils, and more efficient glass doors.

"When you upgrade to refrigeration cases with LEDs, you save twice as much energy," says Wyshnowsky. "With the old cases you're paying more to run the lights and, on top of that, they're heating the case so you have to use more energy to get that heat out.

"With LEDs, the lighting uses less energy, and you're not introducing heat into the case."

Another frequent upgrade is to set up refrigeration systems for waste heat recovery. On colder days they might need a little boost, but otherwise the recovered heat (cast off by the cooling systems) supplies most of the water and space heat required by the stores.

Finally, automation — direct digital control of the buildings — has been a key upgrade for the supermarket chain.

In half of Thrifty Foods' locations, nearly everything in the building — from the room temperature to the refrigerator case temperatures, to the lighting — is centrally controlled. On Salt Spring Island, where automation was not an option because of the store's smaller size, occupancy sensors now keep lighting switched off when no one is in the store.

Store with 'bad' reputation hits 35 per cent energy savings

Wyshnowsky recently completed upgrades of stores at Salt Spring Island and at Longwood Station Mall in Nanaimo, which he singles out as one of his greatest successes.

"[Longwood] used to be the bad boy of the organization, but energy use there has been reduced by 35 per cent since 2010," says Wyshnowsky.

Some of the changes that turned around the Longwood Station store:

  • New refrigeration cases
  • Hot water heat reclamation
  • Re-commissioned heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems
  • Lighting upgrades

Dramatic savings

For his work on both engaging people and implementing technology, Wyshnowsky was honoured with a Power Smart Excellence Award last year for best-in-class energy management.

Meanwhile, the store upgrades and staff engagement efforts have shown up on the bottom line.

Over the past three years, Thrifty Foods has cut its electricity usage by about 11 GWh per year. That's 11 million kilowatt hours, or enough energy to power about 966 homes.

Says Wyshnowsky: "We’re saving on both electricity and natural gas. Our new Courtenay store consumes only half the energy of our average store. And since 2010, our total energy consumption per square foot has gone down by 18 per cent.

"That's a dramatic change that's hard to ignore."