While the big supermarkets are caught in their own price wars, a group of independent grocery stores in Western Australia's Midwest region claim to have shaved about $40,000 - or 10 per cent - off their annual energy costs with basic incentives.
The first of the changes did not cost anything to implement and dramatically reduced their carbon footprint overnight, driving overhead savings they've been able to pass on to their customers, according to Queens SUPA IGA manager Stuart Bain.
With the introduction of a price on carbon looming about a year ago, Mr Bain and the managers of Rigters SUPA IGA and Wonthella SUPA IGA, got together with their semi-retired owner and set themselves a challenge.
"We were just talking because the power bills kept going up and up and we wanted to see what we could focus on," Mr Bain said.
Geraldton's problem with "brown-outs" during the summer months was also a driver for change.
All three IGAs agreed to participate in an energy monitoring program, which meant when the seaside city was nearing summer peaks they would reduce their usage for a period of time, usually about three hours.
But through the program they were also for the first time able to see their energy usage in real time – even accessing the data remotely from their mobile phones - and the insight has proven invaluable, Mr Bain said.
Through summer his store, a 3,500sqm flagship, was tipping up to 420 kilowatts at peak usage times.
"It's a fair whack for a supermarket," he said.
"But we could see what we were using at what times and that's what really pushed us to do some energy saving."
The first and biggest contributor to the reduction in energy instantly cut the flagship store's power bill by about $3000 per month, Mr Bain said.
"It was just lighting control," he explained.
Rather than rely on automatic timers, which saw full lighting come on at 4am and go off at 10pm, the Geraldton IGA teams played with different lighting combinations – such as half-lighting during out-of-hours stocking and baking times.
"We just started a manual system instead of the automatic timers and it's just a matter of training staff to go and turn them on at certain times," Mr Bain said.
"In summer we were looking at saving about $3000 in a month.
"It was massive and that wasn't through changing lights or anything, that was just through putting 12 hours into breaking down our light times and then just staff training after that."
After the lights were under control the team turned to their heating and cooling systems to find further energy reductions.
But the 10 per cent reduction is only half way to their final energy goal and the IGAs have now turned to spending money to save money, investing in 160 solar panels and trialling new types of lights.
The panels are a 30 kilowatt system that is being pumped backed into their grid and have only become viable recently as the renewable space has become more affordable with greater competition.
"Staff have been awesome getting behind it once we explained that we were doing things to cut our carbon footprint it made them excited to get involved and having a target to reach really helped," he said.
But there have been business incentives driving the cost reduction as well.
"The best way to stay ahead of the competition, which is Coles and Woolworths, is to cut costs in other ways and that gives us more money to put into promotions and to keep our prices down," Mr Bain said.
As well as targeting 100 per cent renewable energy, the IGAs are also considering retrofitting energy efficient door on open air fridges.
The story Bright lighting idea cuts IGA energy bill by $40k overnight first appeared on WA Today.