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REI Commits to Solar Energy to Reduce Climate Impact

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment

REI, the $2 billion national outdoor retailer, is committed to renewable energy. The company has 26 locations with solar power systems in eight states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia). The locations with solar rooftop power systems include retail stores and a distribution center in Bedford, Penn. REI began installing solar panels on certain stores in 2008 after Davis, Calif.-based Blue Oak Energy conducted a three-year feasibility survey that found solar rooftop panels can provide 10 to 100 percent of a store’s electricity.

Sharon Im-Lee, energy manager at REI, Seattle, told Interiors & Sources that stores with high energy costs were a good fit for solar, including those located in California, which has higher energy rates. “Here in Seattle, our electricity costs are only 5 to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour; in California, we’re seeing upwards of 17 to 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, so what you’re offsetting is dramatically more in California,” said Im-Lee.
REI also buys renewable energy certificates (RECs). The REC purchases are equal to powering more than 130 stores, two distribution centers and its headquarters. Its annual purchase of RECs are equivalent to removing almost 8,000 cars from the road or switching over 990,000 incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents. REI purchases RECs from San Francisco-based 3Degrees, which was named Best Trading Company for RECs in North America by Environmental Finance in its 14th annual market rankings.

“We intend to generate enough local renewable energy for our total electricity needs, but until then, RECs will be an important part of our energy strategy,” stated Kirk Myers, corporate social responsibility manager at REI, in a news release.

REI’s goal is to become climate neutral in its operations by 2020. Since energy is a big part of the company’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy reduction is part of its energy strategy, which includes efficiency projects like lighting retrofits. The company is on its way to meeting its goal. Despite growing almost 6 percent in 2013 over 2012, its energy consumption only increased by 0.1 percent. REI also reduced GHG emissions by 39.5 percent.

In January, REI was listed as No. 16 on EPA Green Power Partnership’s Top 30 Retail, for obtaining 16 percent of its total energy from renewables. The companies listed represent the largest green power purchasers in the U.S. The combined green power use of the listed companies is 5.6 billion kilowatt-hours a year, which is equivalent to avoiding the carbon emissions from the electricity use of almost 600,000 average American homes every year.

Image credit: Chris Phan

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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