Retailers have been often criticised for excessive energy consumption through their fully air-conditioned venues, and their equipment. It is said that a shopping mall consumes as much electricity as a province with hundreds of thousands of households.
Modern-trade retailer Tesco Lotus wants to change that perception. Last week, it opened the first zero-carbon store ever in Asia in Bang Phra district of Chon Buri province, following its pledge to protect the environment.
Tesco targets reduction of carbon emission by 50 per cent within the year 2020.
A zero-carbon store means that net carbon-dioxide emissions from lighting, air-conditioning, and refrigerants in this store will be zero over the year. The aim is to reduce the impact on the environment as carbon dioxide is a major cause of global warming.
“We are targeting reducing by 50 per cent carbon emissions by 2020 or about 750,000 tons of what we emitted in 2006. We started our mission in the year
2006 with over 1.5 million tonnes,” said Sompong Rungnirattisai, property director of Tesco Lotus Thailand.
Tesco Lotus has come up with 99 initiatives to reduce energy consumption. All these initiatives are built into the zero-carbon store with interesting features such as LED lighting, solar farm, wind turbine, natural refrigeration, biogas system, rammed earth walls, and rain-water conservation.
LED lighting gives more brightness and helps save power. It is also environmentally friendly because it does not contain lead or mercury and it does not emit UV.
The zero-carbon store generates electricity by using solar energy from a solar farm, with photovoltaic or PV cells on the rooftop. The electricity generated by the solar farm accounts for about 70 per cent of what the store needs for its operation. Besides electricity from the solar farm, another form of alternative energy used to generate electricity is a low-speed wind turbine.
Natural refrigeration with hydrocarbon, which emits less carbon than conventional widely-used refrigerants, is also used to preserve fresh food products.
Leftover food products from the store will be collected and turned into biogas. The biogas will used for heating and cooking food for customers.
The walls of the zero-carbon store will be different from other stores. They will not be made with plaster or bricks, but chemical residue-free rammed natural earth. These walls will reduce heat from
outside and keep the inside temperature stable.
To reduce the use of water in the store, a rain-water reserve pond will be built to collect rain water for watering plants and trees, cleaning cars in a car-cleaning service, as well as in the store’s restrooms.
After opening two green stores in Rama I in 2004 and Salaya 2008, the zero-carbon store is the third one in Tesco Lotus’s green family.
However, all these three stores, especially the zero-carbon store, are only testing grounds for Lotus because going green involves a huge amount of investment.
The investment budget of this zero-carbon store is as high as Bt159 million. Forty-four out of Bt159 million are for green initiatives such as solar, wind and natural refrigeration.
Sompong said that it would take up to 18 years for financial returns. However, Tesco Lotus thinks it is still worth the money. Unfortunately, the zero-carbon store is just a pilot project. The company has no plan to open a new green store in the next couple of years. However, lessons learnt from the effective and easy-to-implement initiatives in this zero-carbon store will be introduced at other Lotus branches. According to Sompong, the next step for Tesco Lotus in environmental protection is to engage employees and customers to join their green initiatives.