Meijer, Inc. is a growing multi-billion dollar retailer with over 200 stores, five distribution centers, and six food manufacturing plants in six states. With support from a 2015-16 SNRE Master’s Project, Meijer characterized its environmental footprint and developed a sustainability plan that includes a commitment to reduce the carbon intensity of its operations. Meijer is one of the largest power users in the state of Michigan. Electricity use is the largest component of Meijer’s carbon footprint. Due to its current energy management strategy, the Meijer use intensity benchmarks favorably against industry measures such as Energy Star. Approximately 70% of current store locations are eligible for an Energy Star Rating. In addition to the work of Meijer’s energy management team to improve efficiency at Meijer stores, utilizing electricity from renewable sources will provide the opportunity to further reduce Meijer’s carbon emissions. Additionally, recent cost reductions or incentive programs for some technologies may provide a feasible return on investment to support a business case for capital expenditures.
Goals & Objectives:
The purpose of this project is to identify and evaluate opportunities to expand the renewable energy portfolio of Meijer, Inc. through onsite electricity generation or participation in credit programs (e.g. renewable energy certificates, power purchase agreements, or utility investments). The first objective is to conduct an evaluation of alternatives for Meijer’s renewable energy strategy with regards to technology availability, suitability by location, cost, and benchmarking against other retailer initiatives.
The second objective is to develop a decision-making tool to calculate detailed project costs, performance metrics, and the expected impacts to Meijer’s carbon footprint for the most preferred alternatives, and present final recommendations for Meijer’s renewable energy strategy.
Theoretical Justification, Social Benefit, or Significance:
Meijer has identified that the use of electricity from fossil fuels is the most significant contributor to the company’s overall carbon footprint. Meijer’s energy management team has continuously and successfully implemented projects to reduce electricity use and improve efficiency at stores. Increasing the use of renewable energy sources for electricity is a critical step for Meijer to further reduce the carbon intensity of its operations.
Specific Activities & Duration:
One to two students will identify opportunities for Meijer to participate in renewable energy credit programs within Meijer’s regional footprint. Students will evaluate policy, cost, and carbon footprint implications of participating in these programs. One student will also review publicly available information to benchmark the renewable energy initiatives of other regional and national retailers. Concurrently, two to three students will identify feasible technologies for installation at Meijer properties. These will be evaluated based on expected performance, suitability by location, and cost. Students will identify applicable incentive programs or policy considerations and propose candidate sites for the appropriate technologies. Students will work with Meijer Energy and Environmental teams to select two to four demonstration projects from the proposed alternatives, and will calculate key decision making metrics for these projects. Meijer will support one full-time student intern during the summer of 2017.
The project will require students to integrate skills related to policy, business, engineering, energy resources, and carbon accounting. Students will develop independent deliverables in order to present cohesive and comprehensive recommendations for Meijer’s renewable energy strategy.
Environmental Policy and Planning: Students will identify existing incentives and renewable credit purchase programs on a location-specific basis and benchmark retailer renewable energy programs. Students will work with business owners to understand the corporate culture and develop strategic renewable energy targets that can be integrated into Meijer’s Sustainability Plan.
Environmental Informatics & Sustainable Systems: Students will assemble performance data and specifications on renewable energy technologies. Students will prioritize sites based on solar and wind energy data, and electricity cost. Students will integrate this information with Meijer-provided data and use Meijer’s environmental tracking software in order to predict energy production, costs, return on investment, and net carbon emissions for location-specific projects.
SNRE students will work directly with Meijer Energy and Environmental staff and will have an opportunity to present findings and recommendations to Meijer executive leadership. Students will develop technical and communication skills critical to success in the workplace. Students will spend significant time communicating with professionals to gather data and assess suitability of the data for a specific use. Furthermore, the students will learn to be accountable to meet the project scope and schedule. The Meijer project leader will work closely with the project team and provide mentorship and additional professional networking opportunities.
Meijer will fund one full-time summer intern for 12 weeks at $25/hr. to work at corporate headquarters in Grand Rapids on the project.
Deliverables: Individual objectives will be met with independent deliverables. The first objective will be met with one or more memo-style reports detailing the relevant options for Meijer to pursue renewable credit programs or capital energy projects, as well as a benchmarking evaluation of the initiatives of other retailers. The second deliverable will include a spreadsheet-based decision-making tool and accompanying support documents identifying the key performance and cost metrics for renewable energy projects. Suggested metrics include carbon intensity reduction, cost impact, maintenance requirements, replacement strategy, and regulatory issues. The tool should be applied to demonstration projects. The final report will include these results and final recommendations for Meijer’s overall renewable energy strategy. The overall project goal will be met with a final presentation, summary report, and recommendations to the Meijer team.
Implementation: Meijer will use the evaluation and recommendations to inform a renewable energy strategy and potential capital investments, in alignment with Meijer’s Environmental Commitment. Renewable energy evaluations will be integrated with Meijer’s overall Sustainability Plan and inform future energy projects.