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The word sustainability means different things to different people. One dictionary definition for it is: “The avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”.

Whether sustainability means lowering your carbon footprint, driving an EV or recycling more, there’s no doubting that many consumers expect to see examples of sustainable practices when they shop – including on the forecourt.

Sustainable measures are a ‘win, win’ for businesses; they tick part of the ESG (environmental, social and governance) box; they show you are doing your bit for the planet; they can save on energy consumption; and they appeal to eco-conscious consumers.

Last year the Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards launched its first Best Sustainability Strategy Award and the winner was Maxol Eurospar Kinnegar in Holywood, Co Down.

The winning site was the subject of a £2m expansion and redevelopment, which saw the opening of the first dedicated ultra-rapid EV hub on the island of Ireland; a new Eurospar, the first in Maxol’s estate; and 41 additional car parking spaces.

Maxol says Eurospar Kinnegar’s opening demonstrated its commitment to becoming a more sustainable business. The site’s use of cutting-edge technology reduced its pre-development carbon footprint by up to 40% and established a blueprint for future forecourt developments across Maxol’s estate.

The ultra-rapid EV hub is powered by renewable electricity, has four high-powered rapid and ultra-rapid chargers including a 200kw chargepoint that can charge a single vehicle in as little as 15 minutes. There are a further two 150kW chargepoints and a single 50kW rapid chargepoint. Six vehicles can be charged simultaneously.

On the forecourt, there is Maxol’s Premium Fuel, a 100% carbon offset fuel with fewer pollutants to help reduce vehicle CO2 emissions. Launched in conjunction with international sustainability company GreenPrint (now PDI), the carbon offset programme includes investing in sustainable projects in Ireland, Scotland and overseas, and has resulted in tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon being offset since 2020. It is a central component in Maxol’s company-wide journey towards reducing its carbon footprint.

In the Eurospar store sustainable measures include the use of low-energy LED lighting; solar efficient glazing which reduces solar gain in the summer and heat loss in winter; and photovoltaic (solar) panels on the roof and canopy, which off-set electricity usage with a carbon-free renewable source. In addition, low-energy CO2 refrigeration systems reduce the refrigeration load by up to 60%; heat pump technology maximises heat retention to reduce heating loads; and an energy management system monitors and controls the overall energy usage on the site and verifies what savings are being achieved by each of the technologies used.

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Of course, all this effort needs communicating to customers. Maxol Group CEO, Brian Donaldson, says that ahead of launching the newly developed site, the company delivered a through-the-line marketing campaign designed to inform and educate consumers about the site’s sustainable features using proximity OOH, leaflets, promotions, experiential, PR, radio, social and digital platforms.

“We also use various touchpoints throughout the store to highlight the site’s key sustainability features and their energy-saving benefits. These include a totem sign in the entrance lobby, graphics on the refrigeration, header panels around the store and a communications board in the lobby area to the washrooms,” explains Donaldson.

Keeping staff informed is important too and as part of Maxol’s ESG strategy, it has developed an Energy Handbook for retailers to help guide them with simple tips to manage energy consumption.

When asked whether customers really care about sustainability or just want lower prices, Donaldson answers: “We believe our customers are interested in both. Research carried out by PDI has highlighted that customers are attracted to our range of Premium Fuels and see our investment in lower emissions as important. Offering value is also important and remains a key part of our everyday convenience strategy with Spar.”

He says the investment at Maxol Kinnegar is part of a broader five-year investment programme in cutting-edge technology to create a measurably different service station that enables Maxol to reduce each site’s existing carbon footprint by up to 40%.

Donaldson admits that creating a store like Kinnegar costs more than a standard store: “The upfront cost is greater. However, investing in the latest technology should not be seen as an extra cost of doing business, it presents opportunities to reduce emissions, lower running costs and energy consumption, all of which are critical in our move to net zero.”

The technologies and innovations used at Kinnegar have created a blueprint that now applies across the Maxol network in larger type locations that include Maxol Edenderry, Braid River and recently at Newbridge, Co. Kildare. “The easiest changes to make include using low energy Co2 refrigeration with glass doors; using the latest LED lighting and sensor technology; energy management systems, solar panels and, where appropriate, heat pumps,” he says.

Shell Fulham

EV-only forecourt

A finalist in the Forecourt Trader of the Year Sustainability Category was Shell Fulham, the oil giant’s first-ever EV-only forecourt which opened in December 2021.

Under a sustainably sourced timber canopy sit nine high-powered, ultra-rapid 175kW charge posts. Solar panels built into the canopy provide 25% of the electricity on-site (excluding the chargers). The remaining energy supplied to the station and the chargers is from 100% certified renewable energy sources as certified by REGO.

The shop-front is double-glazed with high insulating properties and the shop walls are highly insulated – both assist in reducing energy usage to help the shop stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. An energy management system was introduced to reduce electricity usage across lighting, refrigeration, heating and air conditioning by around 6%. The in-store refrigeration system is 50% more efficient than earlier versions.

The customer bathrooms use Properlair toilets, saving 6.5ltr of water with each flush, which equates to 97,000ltr of water saved per toilet per year.

The site is 100% zero waste to landfill, and with no fuel on site, the need for protective plastic gloves has been removed, making it the first Shell site in the country to eliminate both essential and non-essential plastic.

The staff on-site wear recyclable polo shirts, made from 65% recycled polyester and 35% better cotton initiative. The Costa café onsite gives consumers the chance to purchase reusable coffee cups and the Waitrose onsite has a bottle refill station, where customers can refill their own water bottles. The site offers carrier bags that are fully compostable made from biodegradable and compostable co-polyester and corn starch. Plus, it’s the first Shell site to use digital technology as the primary method of communicating with customers, removing the need for printed assets and reducing recycling volumes.

A Shell spokesperson confirmed that the Fulham forecourt is currently the only EV-only site they have, as they are predominantly focusing on installing chargers at existing forecourts to ensure they are meeting the needs of all of their customers.

“Our energy transition journey will not be either/or between traditional fuels and EV charging, it will be an ‘and-and-and’ with fuels, EV and convenience retail. We see strong potential for all three. That means continued focus on traditional fuels, growing convenience retail and profitably scaling up our EV charging business. We are also working on rolling out chargers at popular destinations including Waitrose and Aldi, to give customers the flexibility to charge while out and about,” they said.

The spokesperson confirmed that sustainability continues to be a focus at its sites and features vary across company-owned and dealer-owned forecourts. “We always look to be as energy efficient at our sites, however it varies significantly from forecourt to forecourt as they are different sizes, have different opening hours, etc.”

Uenergy Kay Group

Solar success

Top 50 Indie The Kay Group has partnered with U Energy, a Huddersfield-based solar PV company, to design, deliver and maintain solar installations at its forecourts.

In a statement, The Kay Group said initially it had been difficult finding the right partner but once U Energy had been vetted and brought on board they took over the process and delivered on time and on budget.

Farhan Gohir, the CEO of U Energy, says: “These 24 installations for The Kay Group not only showcase our commitment to excellence but also contribute significantly towards reducing the carbon output in the communities they serve.”

He highlights the positive environmental impact these installations will have, saying: “The numbers speak for themselves. Kay Group has installed just over 2mw of clean energy generating solar panels, giving an annual output of 1.7mWh of free energy. That’s’ an overall reduction of over 400 tons of CO2 emissions. That’s a huge number, to put that into perspective, the average family home uses 10,000kWh per year; Kay Group is generating enough energy to power 170 family homes every year.”

Gohir says these solar installations are expected to not only provide long-term energy cost savings for The Kay Group but also serve as a model for other businesses seeking to embrace clean energy solutions. “U Energy remains steadfast in advancing green energy initiatives with a reactive energy management platform due out later this year, designed specifically for forecourts looking to embrace EV charging.”