Let There Be Light

by Nate Hunter
By Michael Pioggia

Macy’s achieves significant energy savings in its New York stores and decides to take the LED program nationwide.


The retail sector is the biggest spender in energy in the commercial building sector in the United States — and is responsible for the second largest percentage of greenhouse gas emissions.

Nationwide, cities and a few states are requiring commercial buildings, including large retailers, to measure and report their energy use. Macy’s, one of the top 50 “Greenest Companies in America,” according to Newsweek, is setting the trend for retailers by improving energy efficiency and incorporating sustainability into its business and marketing models.

Changing a light bulb took on a whole new meaning when the retail icon sought innovations to reduce energy costs. As with most retailers, Macy’s display lighting, which accounts for a significant portion of its electricity usage, is a key element in both design and product marketing. When Macy’s examined more energy-efficient replacements for its existing halogen display lighting, reducing energy costs was just one factor that it considered.

Macy’s partnered with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Energy Conservation and Supply, Inc. and MSi Solid State Lighting to customize new LED bulbs so they fit into existing light fixture sockets. This change nets big energy and dollar savings, and the work can be performed as part of facility maintenance.

mannequinsSupported by almost a $400,000 incentive from NYSERDA, Macy’s custom-designed, 12-watt LED lamps replace 47-watt halogens and will last more than a decade, even while burning 12 hours per day. Producing little heat and using a fraction of the power of halogens, the new lamps also provide better quality light to showcase merchandise — a prerequisite for the change, according to Bill Lyon, Macy’s vice president, energy management.

Installation is as simple as changing a bulb — and the payback is less than 2 years. Macy’s installed 24,553 LED lamps in 17 stores in New York, generating an annual electricity savings of nearly 73% for display lighting.

“Macy’s lowered its display lighting costs by nearly 73%, and now we’re taking the program to Macy’s stores nationwide,” says Lyon.

While the U.S. Department of Energy is introducing a voluntary program to rate the energy efficiency of commercial buildings in 2012, cities and states across the country are requiring transparency in commercial and retail energy use, often legislating improvements in energy efficiency. California, for example, is expected to make public disclosure of commercial building energy use mandatory early next year.

According to the U.S. Census, New York City is the largest commercial real estate market in the country, with more than 600 million square feet of commercial office space in the five boroughs. So it might not surprise you to learn that buildings account for 75% of the greenhouse gas footprint in New York City. Therefore, the city’s new “Greener, Greater Buildings Plan” requires commercial property owners and large tenants to reduce energy use by 30% by 2030. Similarly, Seattle has set a goal of reducing energy use by 20% by 2020, and will require commercial buildings with more than 50,000 square feet to disclose energy use by October 2011. San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and Austin, Texas, also have measures that are planned to go into effect over the next 2 years.



— Michael Pioggia is a senior project manager with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) specializing in retail. He is a Certified Energy Manager (CEM) with more than 10 years of experience in the energy industry. Pioggia can be reached at [email protected].

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