Vital Information

Information is power, particularly when it comes to energy consumption. Just ask Deneice Marshall, director of retail services for Brookshire Brothers Food & Pharmacy. The Lufkin, Texas-based chain receives a detailed analysis of its energy use each month via meter data reports. The reports summarize energy consumption for both Brookshire’s entire supermarket portfolio and each individual site. 


Brookshire receives the monthly, easy-to-interpret reports from Novar, Cleveland, whose sub-meters are installed in the company’s 73 supermarkets. 


“You get what you inspect, not what you expect, meaning that energy needs to be monitored,” Marshall said. “Sub-meters are among the most important tools that we use to monitor our energy consumption.” 


Marshall said Novar helps Brookshire achieve its energy and maintenance goals, and delivers automation of key information and peace-of-mind regarding meter infrastructure. 


The Novar sub-meters, which shadow the utility meters at each location, provide more granular, detailed data by system (such as lighting load, refrigeration load and the like) and record minute-by-minute energy usage. In effect, the meters give the chain a live feed as to what is occurring in each store on a near real-time basis. 


“Our monthly utility bills gave us a basic overview,” Marshall explained, “but sometimes the data was more than 60 days old. It was reactive, and we weren’t able to make changes to things that were actually happening. But the sub-meters provide the type of information that supports more precise corrective actions.”


As part of the reporting, Brookshire receives an annual consumption comparison per store, showing how a site is currently performing, and how it stacks up against the previous year. 


“Probably the most useful data we get has to do with energy usage per square foot,” Marshall said. “Some of our stores are larger than others. Energy-use-per-square-foot data, as opposed to a store’s total kilowatt hours, levels the playing field.”


Brookshire gets three different rankings of its stores based on the metric of energy use per square foot: One shows which stores consume the most energy while they are open, one shows the same for when the stores are closed, and one looks at the “total” consumption over the full 24 hours. 


Brookshire also receives detailed reports from each store location that include graphic depictions of energy use as compared with outside air temperature (from the reporting period compared with a year ago), graphic depiction of monthly consumption from one year to another and a graphic depiction of its daily-load profile.


“Our monthly summary also shows us when demand peaks were high — how high they were — and consumption and intensity information,” Marshall added. 


Brookshire uses the data it receives from Novar in numerous ways, such as launching investigations into stores with high energy use.


“The data allows us to easily identify sites operating outside of our corporate standards, outlier sites that need to be brought back into compliance in order to save energy—and money,” Marshall said. “We uncovered such things as corporate standards that weren’t being adhered to, open refrigerator doors and sloppy maintenance on equipment.” 


Brookshire has also used the energy information to help justify equipment updating, and to check into the programming of specific equipment that is driving high usage at the stores to find anomalies that were previously unknown. 


The information enables Brookshire to stay ahead of the maintenance curve by identifying issues and taking corrective action faster.


“We also use the data to show management how effective actions by the maintenance staff have paid off,” Marshall said. 


FUTURE: Brookshire is now looking to extend sub-metering to its 32 convenience stores (Polk Oil). It also is looking into Novar’s next-generation software, whose extended capabilities include automated demand response and correlation of meter, utility and POS data to understand their relationships.


“As in our other projects, we would start off with some test stores,” Marshall said. “We always start with small steps.”