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With energy costs escalating and profit margins narrowing, businesses in the grocery industry, as elsewhere, need to be sure that they are implementing the most effective energy management policies. The Co-operative Group, the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer operating across the country with almost 2,800 local, convenience and medium-sized stores, has long been an exponent of sustainability, combining financial savings in energy expenditure with reducing their carbon footprint.

HV-MAX-external-pic-2Since 2006 the Co-operative Group has reduced its CO2 emissions by 35% and aims to have reached a 50% reduction by 2020. One of the ways in which they have achieved this is through installing Powerstar voltage optimisation systems in their stores.

Voltage optimisation is a widely recognised and accepted technology that has proven to be a simple and reliable way of reducing energy bills by between on average 12% – 15%, giving typical returns on investment within five years – often much less.

Voltage optimisation is one of three technologies identified, together with LED lighting and Variable Speed Drives (VSDs), that have been proven to provide the highest energy savings and payback, as identified in reports prepared by the NHS Sustainable Development Unit and St Georges University.

Key analysis from both reports is outlined in a document prepared by McKinsey & Company – version 2.1 of the ‘global greenhouse gas abatement cost curve’. The document pinpoints the top three technologies best capable of  reducing carbon emissions across a range of different sized sites, as being Voltage Optimisation, LED lighting and Variable Speed Drives (VSD’s).

Simple but effective

As with all the best ideas, voltage optimisation is based on a simple concept; the voltage supplied to buildings by the National Grid is, on average, 242V while the optimum rating for all electrical devices throughout the UK and Europe is just 220V – a clear and expensive discrepancy. Voltage optimisation systems employ a device in series with the mains electricity supply to reduce the voltage coming into a site to its optimum level. This gives three key benefits: it cuts electricity bills, reduces carbon emissions and extends the life of electrical devices by evening out potentially damaging spikes and dips in power delivery.

Clegg--hires-48EMSc (UK) Ltd, design, manufacture and engineer the Powerstar voltage optimisation system wholly in the UK, a key factor in the Co-Operative Group’s decision to commission installation of Powerstar at their stores.

By working closely with The Co-operative Group, the Powerstar team were able to identify the specific solution for  each store and work meticulously through the evaluation, analysis, project management and installation process to ensure a seamless and successful implementation that meets the required parameters of  the client, with no impact on the customer shopping experience.

Impressive savings

Savings from the installations were impressive. At the South Shropshire, Salford and Liverpool stores savings ranged between 13.7% and 17.4%, representing annual financial savings of £9,100 in Salford, £12,100 in South Shropshire and £14,768 in Liverpool. Powerstar was able to offer complete reassurance by offering 100% guaranteed energy savings, compatibility, dedicated project management and ongoing performance analysis.

Electrical equipment in the stores will also benefit from extended life. Voltage optimisation significantly reduces harmonics, which cause damaging power quality problems. Electric motors in particular are prone to being overheated by an overloaded current.

24-hour retail

Powerstar offers both fixed (Powerstar)and electronic-dynamic (Powerstar MAX) systems within their LV voltage optimisation range, and will specify the ideal solution for each store;

Round-the-clock supermarkets, for instance, could benefit from an electronic-dynamic system such as Powerstar MAX which ensures that voltage is supplied at a constant level regardless of how unstable the incoming voltage is or when incoming voltage increases during the night as the load on the grid almost disappears. Powerstar MAX uses an intelligent interface to maintain a steady supply and protect sensitive electrical equipment such as computers and cash registers, achieving record savings of just over 26%.


Powerstar also covers HV voltage optimisation with Powerstar HV MAX, a high voltage, electronic variable, voltage optimisation system – the only system of it’s kind in the world.

Supermarkets with their own transformers can benefit from Powerstar HV MAX, a super low loss transformer, which when combined with the electronic-dynamic Powerstar MAX to provide a high voltage, electronic variable, voltage optimisation system that offers increased average combined savings of 17%. This latest innovation has been developed after years of research, specifically for sites with their own transformers and new buildings and takes voltage optimisation one step further by optimising a building’s voltage supply before it is distributed.

Powerstar HV MAX can replace a supermarket’s existing transformer, or be installed in new building development. It is currently the only system on the market that takes 11,000V input and provides a fully electronically regulated 380 (or user defined) voltage. As the sole product combining super-low loss transformers and electronic voltage optimisation technology, it is also the only system of its kind in the world.

Powerstar units can be installed in just a few hours and, as they have no moving parts, they need little or no maintenance. They have an expected life span of 50 years and the Powerstar technology is backed by a 15-year warranty including parts and labour.

EMS_Powerstar_Logo-300dpi-Saving energy is one of the simplest ways for a site to increase profits. The Carbon Trust points out that, even though energy costs may only be a small percentage of turnover for retail businesses, reducing them can directly increase margins. A 20% cut in energy costs represents the same bottom line benefit as a 5% increase in sales.

Installing a voltage optimisation system is an essential element in any energy saving strategy. It works alongside all other approaches to ensure that retailers only pay for the energy that they actually need, helping to keep prices competitive and customers loyal.

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