Both Coles and Aldi now have ambitious clean energy commitments. Will Woolworths follow suit?
Coles has committed to sourcing over 90 per cent of its energy requirements from clean energy sources, hot on the tail of ALDI’s commitment a month earlier to purchase 100 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2021.
Through a landmark 10-year agreement with clean energy generator CleanCo, Coles will purchase 400GWh of electricity annually, in turn reducing its emissions nationally by about 20 per cent (or 240,000 tonnes annually).
This is on top of the supermarket’s achievement in 2019 to become the first Australian retailer to commit to renewables through another 10-year agreement with global renewable company Metka EGN.
Coles Group CEO Steven Cain said ramping up its renewable energy usage is a major part of Coles’ commitment to be Australia’s most sustainable supermarket.
“We have already made changes throughout our business to use energy more efficiently, which has enabled us to reduce our emissions by 36.5 per cent since 2009,” said Mr Cain.
Thinus Keeve, Coles’ chief sustainability, property and export officer, said that long-term agreements like this are a great example of how the company can reduce energy costs, support the community and reduce emissions.
“The CleanCo and Metka EGN agreements are a great example of how we can grow renewable energy generation capacity in Australia because they give the developers the certainty they need to invest,” Mr Keeve said.
The Coles announcement follows a similar commitment made by ALDI, which aims to run completely on renewables by 2021. This will be achieved through a vast solar array and two 10-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) with large-scale wind farms.
By the end of the year, the company plans to have solar installations for over 250 ALDI stores and six distribution centres – preventing 41,000 tonnes of emissions a year.
According to ALDI Australia CEO Tom Daunt, this is only the beginning.
“We will continue to work within our business and closely with our business partners to reduce emissions and preference renewable sources of energy,” Mr Daunt said.
“Our commitment to only use renewables is just one of many milestones we will announce as we drive towards our vision of zero carbon emission.”
What about Woolworths?
So what about the remaining major supermarket operating in the country? Does Woolworths have plans to run off renewable energy?
Although there has been no formal commitment to switch 100 per cent to renewables, the supermarket giant has been working hard to reduce its carbon footprint.
Woolworths has focused efforts into installing solar arrays and LED lighting for 10-15 per cent more energy efficiency in all of its buildings.
It recently just completed its 100th supermarket solar installation in Orange. The 100kW solar system, shaped like the Woolworths logo, is made up of 357 high-efficiency solar panels spanning around 1000sqm.
The system has the capacity to generate more than 150MWh of electricity annually – offsetting around 8 per cent of the store’s energy consumption.
A third of the company’s supermarkets now also have hybrid or HFC-free refrigeration systems.
In total, the major supermarket’s sustainability efforts have delivered an 18 per cent reduction in carbon emissions.
A Woolworths’ spokesperson told Yahoo Finance that the supermarket was committed to reducing energy use across its business operations.
“We’re continuing to install more efficient lighting and refrigeration systems, while also generating renewable energy for our stores through our new solar panel systems.
“We recognise there is more to do and continue to look for ways to reduce our environmental impact.”
According to Greenpeace’s REnergise campaign director Lindsay Soutar, the work being done by the big three supermarket chains is a huge step towards 100 per cent commitment to renewables in this space.
“Now more than ever, Australia needs future-proof jobs, sound investment decision and economic stability, and renewable energy commitments like this help to deliver that,” Ms Soutar said.
“With Coles already heading for 30 per cent of its operations powered by renewable electricity, there’s now no reason they can’t go all the way and commit to 100 per cent renewable electricity, as major competitor ALDI has recently done.
“Major companies like Coles and Woolworths are some of our biggest energy users. If they switch their operations to 100 per cent renewable energy they can help create a clean and resilient economy with more jobs for everyday Australians.”