7-Eleven Hawaii invests millions to save energy

7-Eleven Hawaii invests millions to save energy

Convenience store chain hopes to cut consumption and costs 30%

Ryan Kohatsu, an energy-efficiency engineer for Energy Industries, installs new energy-efficient refrigeration at a 7-Eleven store on Nuuanu Avenue.

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Tina Yuen, PBN

Ryan Kohatsu, an energy-efficiency engineer for Energy Industries, installs new energy-efficient refrigeration at a 7-Eleven store on Nuuanu Avenue.

Reporter-Pacific Business News
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The nearly 60 convenience stores owned by 7-Eleven Hawaii Inc. are investing more than $10 million in an effort to reduce their energy consumption and related costs by 30 percent annually.

Saying that electricity is the second-highest expense for the convenience store chain, President and CEO Greg Hanna told PBN that the company spends about $8,000 a month per store on energy costs, with Neighbor Island utility bills running even higher than that.

In total, 7-Eleven Hawaii spends about $6 million annually on energy costs.

“Just like your electric bill at home, costs continue to rise and rise,” he said. “It has been that trend for the past several years. [So] this is one of the primary companywide initiatives that started early last year.”

Experts say that as Hawaii moves closer and closer to deadlines associated with its clean-energy initiative, large companies such as 7-Eleven Hawaii will play an important role, especially on the efficiency side, which has a mandate of 30 percent by 2030.

Hanna says the initiative started by installing electronic sensors in several test stores to determine which equipment was consuming the most energy. Not surprisingly, the company found that refrigeration, air conditioning and lighting were what Hanna calls the “energy pigs.”

In its first phase, 7-Eleven Hawaii targeted refrigeration and outside lighting, which per store, cost about $15,000 to upgrade.

The second phase of the project is much larger in scope and includes interior lighting, A/C and other upgrades, said Hanna, who noted that these improvements and retrofits will be done during upcoming existing store renovations.

The cost of these upgrades will be another $150,000 per location.

Phase three looks specifically at creating an “eco-friendly” store and includes other energy-saving equipment, such as solar photovoltaic panels, sky lights, inverter systems and new vault and cooler technology. The cost of the third phase is not included as part of the $10 million that 7-Eleven plans to spend on energy improvements. Phase three costs were not immediately available.

“All employees are engaged in our [energy savings initiatives],” Hanna said. “The human contribution is huge, [which includes] simple things such as closing doors, turning off equipment not in use and cleaning filters [to] help reduce consumption.”

The convenience store giant contracted with the Honolulu energy-efficiency and renewable-energy developer Energy Industries to help it with all phases of this project.

Brandon Hayashi, energy project developer for Energy Industries, is heading up the project, which will have completed the first phase of work on 53 stores by the end of next week.

“In terms of companies [such as] 7-Eleven Hawaii, any amount they save goes straight to their bottom lines,” he told PBN. “There are real dollars that can be had.”

Energy Industries also has worked with smaller companies as well. One way it helps companies with cold storage needs bring down their expenses is with the use of a device called “Frigitek,” which has been utilized all across the country, but mostly in California.

The device is a fan controller for refrigerators that attaches to the evaporator coil. Typical payback time for the device, including cost of installation, is less than 18 months, according to a manufacturer’s representative.

Energy Industries gets the device from California-based Energy Control Equipment Inc., which holds the patent.

Hayashi says that Watanabe Floral was one of its first customers to use Frigitek when it installed the device several years ago.

Leon Dodson, chief financial officer for the 70-employee Honolulu-based floral shop, told PBN that it has saved about $6,000 per month in energy costs.

Dodson estimates that it spent about $700,000 in upfront costs for efficiency measures, which does not include the tax credits it received.

“The price of gas and everything else has gone up,” he said. “It has helped, but can you imagine if we didn’t? We would be farther behind, [so] for us to sit idle, that’s the worst thing we could’ve done.”

What both 7-Eleven Hawaii and Watanabe Floral have done and are currently undertaking should be a model for other businesses to follow, according to experts at Hawaii Energy.

Ray Starling, program manager for Hawaii Energy, says that Hawaii is way behind on the efficiency side of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, which looks to achieve 70 percent clean energy by 2030, with 30 percent coming from increased efficiency and 40 percent coming from locally generated renewable sources.