Energy Manager

Commercial News
What is Starbucks’ energy efficiency problem?

August 13, 2015 - Starbucks is looking for a saviour. According to its recently issued annual sustainability report, Starbucks is having trouble meeting its goal to reduce energy use by 25% by 2015.

August 13, 2015  By Anatoli Naoumov

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

More details on the issue here. Meantime, here is a solution to Starbucks’ woes.

This problem is becoming a classic one in modern energy management: PR sets energy efficiency goals and marketing measures results, all while engineers are blamed for missing the targets.

It’s entirely possible that engineers have not missed the targets; instead, targets have been substituted along the way.


Last time I checked, Starbucks makes money by serving food and drinks—no other revenues to speak of. How can a coffee shop use less energy while cooking more food? And why would they measure energy consumption in kWh/sf as though they were renting out space? The problem is in accounting, not engineering.

The solution is simple: include outdoor space and the kWh/sf ratio will drop at once. How to play the target even more? Decrease space and sell more coffee “to go”.

Seriously, though, Starbucks should separate energy used in food prep from the energy used for heating/cooling/lighting. This opens the possibility of actually managing energy intensity in operations.

Until this is done, evaluating any solution is a competition in sales pitches from equipment vendors. Installing new equipment is commonly the least-efficient energy efficiency measure, and certainly the most expensive one. A lot of less-glamorous measures are likely to achieve higher energy savings without damaging the core business, so it is best to focus on reducing load on existing equipment:

• Review whether installed solutions are actually utilized e.g. daylight helps reduce energy use only when paired with sensor-based lighting controls.

• Review whether the use of some equipment can be avoided altogether e.g. use awnings to reduce A/C load, balance ventilation to avoid unnecessary heating load, and so on.

• Review how waste heat can be exploited instead of rejected within the shop e.g. heat shop area or water with waste heat from cooking/cooling equipment.

• Review whether heating/cooling distribution network is optimal e.g. tangled ducts waste a lot of energy, as do those that are improperly insulated/positioned.

• Review whether equipment is properly sized and used only when needed e.g. does kitchen exhaust work all the time, or only when it is actually needed.

When this is done, employee engagement can be considered. This is a whole other story that cannot even be started until proper energy measurement is in place. Otherwise, staff will start serving cold pastries to save energy. Brand value will then be on the line.

A managing partner at GreenQ Partners, Anatoli Naoumov, MBA, MSc, CMVP, has been involved in various areas of business analysis and development for over 15 years for companies in Canada, The Netherlands and Russia. He has been certified as measurement and verification professional (CMVP) by The Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) and The Efficiency Valuation Organization (EVO). He can be reached at . Photos © Starbucks.

Print this page


Stories continue below