Starbucks is looking for a savior.

Starbucks is having trouble meeting its goal to reduce energy use by 25 percent by 2015, according to its recently issued annual sustainability report.

Last year, the company improved its energy performance only 4.6 percent over its 2008 baseline, using 6.49 kWh/square foot per store in the U.S. and Canada. By comparison, the stores improved 7.1 percent from 2012 to 2013 and used 6.32/square foot per store.

More details on the issue are here, while a solution is right below.

This problem is becoming a classic one in modern energy management: PR sets energy efficiency goals, marketing measures results, while engineers are being blamed for missing the targets. It’s entirely possible that engineers have not missed the targets, instead targets have been substituted along the way: how can a coffee shop use less energy while cooking more food?!

Last time I checked, Starbucks was making $$ by serving food and drinks. No other revenues to speak of. Why would they measure energy consumption in kWh/sft, like as if they were renting out space??? The problem they present is in accounting, not in engineering. Solution is simple: include outdoor space and kwh/sft ratio will drop at once. Bingo. How to screw the target even more? – Decrease space and sell more coffee “to go.”

Seriously though, Starbucks should separate energy used in food preparation from energy used for heating/cooling/lighting. This will open a possibility to actually manage energy intensity in operations. Until this is done, evaluation of any solution is a competition in sales pitches from equipment vendors. Installing new equipment is commonly the least efficient energy efficiency measure and the certainly the most expensive one. Lots of less glamorous measures are likely to achieve higher energy savings without damaging the core business.

Next steps should not be installation of new equipment, but reducing load on existing equipment:

  • review if installed solutions are actually utilized,
    eg, daylight helps reduce energy use only as long as it’s paired with light-sensor based lighting controls
  • review if use of some equipment can be avoided,
    eg, use awnings to reduce AC load, balance ventilation to avoid unnecessary heating load and so on
  • review how rejected heat can be used instead of being rejected within the same shop,
    eg, heat shop area or water with heat rejected from cooking/cooling equipment
  • review if heating/cooling distribution network is optimal,
    eg, air intake located close to exhaust short-circuits AC, tangled ducts waste tons of energy and so do improperly insulated/positioned ones
  • review if equipment is properly sized and used only when needed,
    eg, does kitchen exhaust work all the time or when it is actually needed

When this is done, employee engagement can be considered. This is a whole new story, which can’t even be started unless proper energy measurement is in place, otherwise to save energy staff will start serving cold pastries. Brand value will on the line then.