Reducing Energy Use

According to the EPA, a traditional convenience store is one of the most energy-intensive small businesses to operate. The only business that uses more energy is a quick-service restaurant, which can use up to 10 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings.

Many retailers combine both business models, which means that energy is a cost, and a cost-savings opportunity for owners. The cost savings can be significant:

  • 7-Eleven is committed to reducing its energy footprint in stores and offices by 20% by 2025.
  • A Michaels Energy study of 50 convenience stores in Minnesota found owners could save 21% on average through lighting, refrigeration upgrades and other improvements. One store owner had an estimated 1.6-year payback period that was cut to 1.05 years after rebates from the local utility.
  • Kwik Trip began focusing on energy efficiency more than a decade ago. The La Crosse, Wisconsin-based retailer estimated that making new stores more energy efficient than its traditional store design would increase building costs by 10%, but any additional costs would be quickly recovered through the resulting energy savings.

Energy Efficient Equipment

The largest contributors to a convenience store’s electric bills are refrigeration, lighting and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. Refrigeration alone can be up to 40% of the total energy cost in a convenience store.

Equipment today uses much less electricity than equipment from ten years ago. Whether building a new store, refreshing an older one, or just looking for ways to reduce operational costs, consider energy-efficient products in the following categories:

Refrigerated/Freezer Display Cases
Refrigerators and Freezers
HVAC Equipment
Other Equipment

Energy Management Systems

Many convenience retailers use an energy management system (EMS) to control and measure energy efficiency.

QuikTrip invested in an EMS and building automation system in 2008. The system manages lighting, heating, cooling, refrigeration, exhaust fans and more. The system'senergy dashboard tracks electricity use at the store level. By comparing store-level energy on a per-square-foot or per-dollar-of-sales basis, QuikTrip can identify maintenance needs and opportunities to reduce electricity. 

In its 2019 Environmental Sustainability Review report, QuikTrip said its energy efficiency efforts reduced its electricity use by almost 44 million kilowatt hours. Those savings reduced its global warming contributions by 30,305 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). The company attributes its energy savings to its chain-wide EMS and its focus to improve the energy efficiency of its lighting and refrigeration.

7‑Eleven has strengthened its energy management strategy by implementing an EMS in stores to monitor, control and optimize the performance of HVAC and refrigeration equipment. The EMS enables remote control of HVAC and other energy-consuming equipment, and generates real-time data used to perform self-diagnostic and optimization routines to reduce energy consumption and manage costs.

Calculating Energy Cost Savings

Reducing energy use requires determining which investments provide the greatest return. The first step is to understand how much electricity a store is using and how it compares to other convenience stores.

Through its Portfolio Manager tool, EPA's online Energy Star program can help convenience retailers identify information to collect, such as the store’s total square footage and at least one year of electric bills to show the costs and the amount of electricity used.

Portfolio Manager tool can compare a convenience store’s energy use with other small format retailers and assign a score from 1 to 100. A score of 75 or above indicates that the store is one of the most energy efficient. NACS worked with EPA to develop a convenience-store specific Energy Score that will be available later this year. Visit for more information.

Retailers can use Energy Star’s Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator to evaluate the rate of return for different potential energy efficiency projects. It simplifies answers to the following questions:

  • How much energy efficient equipment can be funded by the anticipated savings?
  • Is it better to wait and use cash from a future budget or finance the equipment now?
  • What are the benefits (if any) of waiting for a lower interest rate? 

Include rebates for energy efficiency improvements from utilities when calculating the rate of return.