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With energy and climate change as one of the pillars of Woolworths’s Good Business Journey, the company has set aggressive targets, namely a 50% reduction of their carbon footprint by 2020.
The company’s renewable journey kicked off in 2012 with a decision to investigate the feasibility of using renewable energy installations for the business through pilot installations. Two considerations underpinned the decision. In the first instance, Woolworths realised that it should seize the opportunity to be part of building scale for renewable energy in South Africa and their other areas of operation. In the second instance, it made business sense to invest in renewable energy as energy availability and cost were increasingly becoming a company risk that needed a proactive approach. Their first installation was a 30 kWp rooftop PV installation on one of their Cape Town head office rooftops, consisting of 120 x 250 W panels mounted on the surface of the rooftop. This installation generated 48 000 kWh, which equalled 3% of the building’s electricity demand in its first year of operation, loosely translating to R33 000 in financial savings per annum.
The second phase of this installation increased its capacity to a 108 kWp system consisting of 432 x 250 W panels that generated 157 616.13 kWh per annum. This presented an opportunity to save at least R110 000 per annum. Their biggest installation to date, a 2 MWp phased installation at their Midrand Distribution Centre, is being installed in phases with 1 MWp already operational. Once completed, the system will generate over 30% of the facility’s energy needs. Apart from the cost benefits, the installations will also contribute to the ongoing reduction of the company’s carbon footprint across their business.
Woolworths is learning valuable lessons from the current installations. Their strategy is further refined through continuous engagement with industry bodies, facility managers and their finance teams. The knowledge thus gained is employed to improve the business case for renewables for the business in future through exploring all the renewable energy sources available, prioritising facilities that are more at risk, and ensuring that appropriate and relevant renewable energy systems are implemented.
In addition, their facilities use a building management system and a computerised system installed for the central control of electro-mechanical devices. With these systems the company is able to monitor electricity use across their operations in real time, and also detect leaks. Thanks to these efforts Woolworths has reduced its relative energy consumption by 42% thus far, with an additional 4% efficiency improvement in their African stores year on year. Overall savings from their energy reduction and efficiency interventions to date translate to an estimated R396 million in financial savings – a great story to tell as they build the business case for meeting their 2020 and 2030 targets.
Written by Justin Smith, Good Business Journey Manager, Woolworths