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As you would expect of a major high street retailer, M&S has hundreds of stores and many distribution centres and offices across the UK, all of which need a large amount of energy to operate and keep our business running. For example, it is key for us to maintain comfortable ambient temperature and ventilation levels for customers, refrigerate food and drink, and keep buildings lit.

As such, we are constantly reviewing our energy consumption and looking at ways in which to use energy more efficiently. Our business-wide sustainability strategy – Plan A – is our approach to reducing our environmental and social impact, and this includes our energy consumption. Since the launch of Plan A ten years ago in 2007, we have successfully reduced our energy consumption year on year to our current figure of 39 per cent. But what more can we do?

Not many of us are aware, but the electricity demand in Great Britain increases and decrease minute to minute, day to day, season to season. In order to help National Grid balance the system, we have in recent years moved into Demand Side Response (DSR), which means we pre-heat or pre-cool our stores so that we can effectively switch off certain non-critical loads – specifically heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) – during peak demand. Alongside this, we are producing additional electricity during peak periods using our existing in-store back-up generators.

How did we get into DSR? We partnered with E.ON who became our aggregator, and Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick who project managed and delivered the modifications to our generators for us.  We take part in two DSR schemes – Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) and the Capacity Market.

As well as helping National Grid, participating in DSR allows us to reach our Plan A goals, meaning it’s a win-win for both sides. In addition, it results in a greater security of supply as well as generating additional revenue for us, so it really is a no-brainer!

E.ON, Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick and the whole project team were a huge help in getting us to this point. With their support, we were able to add generators to our central remote management system where we already managed lighting and HVAC. Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) were also a great help as they ensured our generators would work with the grid safely. Overall, we currently have assets in 25 stores available and able to be controlled remotely. Plus, 13 of our stores have upgraded generators that can supply power back to the grid when needed, with many more in the pipeline. 

Despite being initially unsure about taking part in DSR, I would recommend other organisations to investigate with National Grid if it is for them. It truly has had a positive impact on M&S’s environmental credentials and on our business as a whole. I am looking forward to seeing the impact that phase two will bring.

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