REI reducing environmental footprint through energy investments

Seattle Recreational Equipment Tuesday announced multiple energy-related investments to further reduce its impact on the environment. The efforts, which focus on solar energy, renewable power sources and energy-reduction measures, will help the outdoor gear and clothing retailer progress toward its goal of being climate-neutral by 2010.

“These are very intentional strategic investments in capital that reduce our energy use,” said Sharon Im-Lee, project manager for energy and utilities, REI.

The chain is taking advantage of sustainable sources of power wherever possible. In June, it completed the installation of a rooftop solar-electric system on its eastern distribution center in Bedford, Pa. The system, installed through a power-purchase agreement with an affiliate of Tier I Generation, will generate an estimated 60,500 kilowatts of electricity annually and provide a long-term, fixed-price source of electricity for the facility.

REI is also working to reduce overall energy consumption. In 2009, it is retrofitting 50% of its stores with ceramic metal halide lamps that are three times more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. The new lamps will not only reduce the energy needed to light REI stores, they will also last longer and improve lighting, according to Im-Lee. The retailer plans to retrofit the remainder of its stores in 2010.

To further reduce its energy use, REI has partnered with CPower, a New York City-based energy-management firm, to participate in demand-response programs in 20 of its locations nationwide. (Demand-response programs call on electricity users to reduce consumption during critical times, such as periods of peak demand. Electricity users receive payments for their participation, including commitment to reduce consumption and actual consumption during a demand response event.)

“Our stores in the Bay Area were doing this [demand-response] on their own,” Im-Lee said. “But with CPower, we are able to implement a program nationally and consistently.”

REI has also expanded the scope of its partnership with Cleveland-based Novar to better manage the energy consumed in its stores’ lighting, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. The retailer has been installing Novar energy-management systems for the past five to seven years. In August 2008, it signed a services contract with the company whereby Novar reviews and monitors the stores’ lighting and HVAC equipment.