DETROIT — DTE Energy, a gas and electric utility, received an Efficiency Innovation Award from the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) for introducing energy-efficient solutions to independent food retailers here.
DTE Energy's program to help these grocers reduce their energy costs and keep produce fresher dovetailed with the city's efforts to make more fresh foods available to its local residents.
"DTE Energy's independent grocers program was truly groundbreaking," said MEEA Acting Executive Director Jay Wrobel, in a statement. "It not only helped small businesses save money and cut energy use, but also helped to improve everyday life for Detroit residents."
As a market segment, Detroit's independent grocers represented a high potential for energy savings. Their extended hours of operation, combined with energy-intensive equipment such as coolers and walk-in freezers, have traditionally resulted in high energy bills. Also, compared to big box competitors such as Walmart, independent grocers tend to have older, far less efficient equipment.
However, despite their potential for energy savings, Detroit's grocers had proved to be a hard-to-reach segment in previous energy efficiency initiatives. DTE Energy discovered that not a single independent grocery store had participated in its "Your Energy Savings" energy efficiency program for commercial and industrial customers.
In order to develop a custom, easy-to-use program, DTE Energy performed energy audits on three local independent grocery stores and then used their findings to develop a prescriptive à la carte program for use by all the area's grocers.
"We performed a deep dive and came up with some really interesting and useful information we would not have been able to obtain otherwise," said William Clemens, DTE Energy's manager of energy efficiency & business services and the program's chief architect. "As a result, we were able to develop a completely prescriptive application for program participants. You fill out the application, enter in the equipment you're using, and it immediately provides your potential energy savings."
Typical energy savings per store increased by more than 18%, with an average of 107,000 Kilowatt hours saved. Participation levels also reached 25%, exceeding the program's initial goal of 20%. Additionally, the program was able to make local businesses more financially stable by helping them save money on energy costs, and identify ways to keep foods fresher for customers.