Sustainability unleashed: How Pets at Home is delivering huge energy savings

EXCLUSIVE: Retailer Pets at Home has recorded energy savings of 32% across its stores after a "game-changing" LED lighting project was embraced across the entire business, the firm's energy manager has revealed.

The animal goods company last year spent £8m on installing energy-efficient LED lighting and Building Energy Management Systems (BEMS) across its 427 retail outelts, vet practices and referral centres. The investment represents the largest capital expenditure project ever undertaken by the firm, with a payback of under two and a half years.

Speaking exclusively ahead of his appearance at the edie Live exhibition next month, James Kokiet explained that the project’s first phase – carried out between September and December last year –  recorded an energy-saving triumph barely conceivable when he joined the company two years ago.

“It’s been a huge success,” Kokiet said. “It’s been a game-changer for Pets at Home really. Through the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) process, it came out that the scale of opportunity was much higher than we imagined and it was a no brainer.

“We’ve seen savings between 30-32% across the stores, and sometimes a lot more, so it is pretty significant. It’s quite a staggering progress when you think we had done virtually nothing by September last year, with only a few pilots. We’ve really hit it pretty hard and by the end of June, everything will be LED.”

Boardroom buy-in

Kokiet puts the sustainability success largely down to a receptive boardroom, which has realised the opportunity to align the company’s animal welfare ethos with the cost-saving opportunities provided by tumbling LED lighting prices. Engaging the chief executives with the quick-win potential of LEDs was made easier through the simple explanation that pet comfort would benefit from lower in-store temperatures, Kokiet said.

“From my side, it was important to engage in the language that Pets at Home used,” Kokiet said. “It was about understanding the drivers for business, which for Pets at Home is animal welfare. So we don’t just view this as an energy-saving project, we view it as a pet welfare project across the business. Without the pet welfare aspect it would have just been another project. Badging it as a pet welfare project crossed it over the finishing line.

“You have to make the business case work the business. You have to hit whatever motivates and drives the business. You can’t just make it about the energy-saving programme because then it is just competing with all the other projects. You need to have multiple benefits rather than just say it’s a nice energy efficiency programme that you want to do. You have to speak the language that the board understands. At Pets at Home, that was clearly the animal welfare aspect as the second benefit of saving energy.”

Employee engagement

Across its UK stores, Pets at Home uses more than 69 million kWh of electricity every year. The company now controls its A/C more efficiently via a remote-controlled BEMS system, which simplifies how colleagues control temperature in-store. Kokiet said that the new automated system runs a non-training mode, whereby lights operate at 40% of the maximum output as standard when store colleagues arrive three hours before stores open.

Daylight sensors, meanwhile, automatically reduce the in-store electricity use by 10%, while an alarm will send a text message to the store manager if a certain critical area is outside of the pet comfort. Kokiet insists that engaging employees with the project has been a relatively simple process; a widespread interest in pet welfare issues means that colleagues have a vested interest in optimising the energy performance of every store.

He added: “We’re lucky at Pets at Home to have a very receptive workforce. Most of our colleagues are very keen pet lovers, and are consequently very open to environmental and energy-saving initiatives. The vast majority of people have reacted to that well because they really care about the welfare of the pets, and they put pets before profit. What is really valuable at Pets at Home is that we now see evidence everyday – we can swiftly act if there is an issue with the temperature policy for pets or pet comfort.”

Looking ahead

With the LED lighting deployment proving to be a commercially viable project, the challenge now for Kokiet is to find similar energy-saving schemes that are equally as attractive. Pets at Home is actively looking to roll out energy-efficient air curtains which protect against costly heating and air conditioning escaping the building.

Additionally, the potential to utilise on-site solutions such as solar technology and battery storage are being explored by Kokiet, who recognises the need to “leave nothing off the table”. But the success of the LED project presents its own unique challenge, with boardroom expectations now at an all-time high, Kokiet says.

“When you realise the potential to have LED in your stores it smacks you in the face that it is the obvious thing to do. But the business has got used to that level of return so the next step for me is to bundle all these technologies together and see if they can be deployed as an energy pack across the estate.

“What is interesting is that the business realises that the energy savings is an ongoing project that is not just something you cannot just stop at. The business has now been focusing on getting a budget together for what’s next. And that for us is looking at things like air curtains, HVAC upgrades for our grooming salons and door sensor upgrades as well. Potentially we are looking at what is next after that in terms of solar PV and battery storage.

“We are exploring everything and nothing is off the table but we need to recognise that we don’t own many of our stores. So, there are challenges with roofs and things, but equally the electricity consumption of our stores is not massive at the best of times, let alone after this project. We are at the small side of energy consumption for a retailer, and we need to be realistic with what the market can provide for us because we can’t move the market ourselves.”

James Kokiet at edie Live 2017

Pets at Home’s energy manager James Kokiet is among the expert speakers appearing on stage at edie Live 2017 at the NEC Birmingham on 23-24 May. 

Kokiet is appearing in the final session of the Energy Management Theatre on Day 1 of the show, which takes a closer look at the role of lighting in energy management from LED rollouts to its impact on staff wellbeing.

Find out more about edie Live 2017 and register for your free two-day pass here.

George Ogleby

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