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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wal-Mart: the Next Energy Efficiency Crusader?

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer has declared that it will pursue a path towards increased energy efficiency. Joining other large corporations recently announcing enviro-friendly campaigns (be they simple greenwashing or a real effort) including GE's 'Ecomagination' Campaign, Wal-Mart will announce specific environmental measures to reduce energy use in its thousands of stores and its truck fleet (the largest in the US) as well as to pressure its worldwide supply-chain of over 60,000 suppliers.

Wal-Mart plans to:

  • reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2012;

  • increase the fuel efficiency of its truck fleet, which currently averages 6.5 mpg, by 25% over the next three years and double it by 2015

  • build stores that are at least 25% more energy efficient within the next four years. (Wal-Mart has already opened an 'energy-efficient' store in McKinney, Texas which has seen a 10% reduction in energy use during its first two months of operation).

  • Don't be fooled into thinking Wal-Mart is doing this for our sake. This is simply a potent example of how increased energy costs have made energy efficiency an even more appealing prospect for many companies. As usual, the all-mighty dollar rules here.

    This is an example of retailers getting squeezed by higher energy costs and deciding to pursue energy efficiency rather than passing on these costs to consumers. Companies like Wal-Mart, whose business plan is centered around moving large volumes at small profit-margins per transaction, are especially loath to raise prices and pass the buck on to consumers. They also stand to gain the most by increasing the efficiency of their supply fleet and stores. For example, increasing the fuel efficiency of Wal-Mart's transport fleet as outlined above will save the giant company an estimated $494 million dollars a year! With nearly half-a-billion dollars a year in savings within Wal-Mart's reach, it is easy to see how much promise energy efficiency measures hold for businesses.

    While we shouldn't be fooled by the greenwashing campaign that will accompany these efficiency measures - Wal-Mart still isn't out for anyone's benefit but their stockholders, whose wallets will be fatter after these measures - it is good to see more companies recognizing that the 'low-hanging fruit' of energy efficiency is ripe for the picking. In the end, we will all benefit in the long run by companies waking up to the cost-effectiveness of energy efficiency. So, as much as it pains me to say it, keep it up Wal-Mart.

  • October 24th New York Times article: "Wal-Mart to Seek Savings in Energy"

  • Wal-Mart's environmental policies (i.e. department of greenwashing) webpage.

  • The Watt article on Wal-Mart's energy efficient store in McKinney, Texas

  • [Edit: A hat tip to The Watt who scooped me on this one. I apologize for forgetting to give proper dues in the original post...]

    1 comment:

    Jesse Jenkins said...

    arcandspark posted this in a forum over at the Watt and I thought it was an appropriate follow up to the above post and the McKinney, Texas pilot stores:

    "Well its finally happened. Wal-Mart opened one of 2 stores here in McKinney Texas to showcase their desires to use Renewable Energy. It is an incredible display of resources - the icon out front in the parking lot is a Bergey 50 KW wind turbine mounted on top of a 120 ft mono pole - it's expected to produce more than 100,000 KW hrs of electricity a year here with the North Texas Winds. There is also a 1 KW turbine used to power the monument lights as you drive into the parking lot.

    On the building and through out the parking lot, there are Solar modules of various types utilizing several different types of modules including the see through type for sky lights....from the restaurants and the used oils from the auto center they are reclaiming the fluids and using it for heating.
    Over all, there are over 20 different types of new technologies that are being tested as a model for future stores.

    Forgot to add that Walmart is also testing Hydrogen Fuel Cell Lift Trucks which if they pass the test will be replacing all the gas buring lift trucks in their warehouses and many stores. You have to admit that they are doing a better job of moving towards alternative energy sources then many other companies, Sears, Penneys, ect. Other neat things at this store are storing the cooking oil from the reasturant department for reclaiming, storing the rainwater from the roof and parking lot for watering the landscape, they have special designed duct work inside the store for removing and reusing the heat from the refrigerators in the frozen food section, and bathrooms with auto-flush infared sensors on the urinals.

    For pictures of the store check out this web site.

    Thanks arcandspark.