Starbucks Misses Energy Efficiency Targets

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Starbucks is having trouble meeting its goal to reduce energy use 25 percent by 2015, according to its recently issued annual sustainability report.

Last year, the company improved its energy performance only 4.6 percent over its 2008 baseline, using 6.49 kWh/square foot per store in the U.S. and Canada. By comparison, the stores improved 7.1 percent from 2012 to 2013 and used 6.32/square foot per store.

It was not for lack of trying. Starbucks built 98 percent of its new stores to LEED specifications last year. The company also put in place 4,000 new energy management systems to improve efficiency of store heating and cooling, installed efficient lighting, and built stores to take  advantage of natural lighting.

So what’s the problem? It turns out it’s those sandwiches and other edibles. It takes energy to prepare food, and Starbucks is serving more food.

Customers are not only eating lunch at Starbucks more and more, but they like their sandwiches heated…as well as their muffins and pastries.

It’s not exactly clear from the report what Starbucks plans to do about this. (Let them eat cake, cold?) But the company says it’s trying to figure it out.

“This doesn’t mean we should aim lower,” The report said. “We believe in the importance of setting aspirational targets rather than settling for less ambitious targets, as well as learning from our experience to inform next steps.”

The good news. A large portion of the energy is from renewables (or renewable energy credits). Starbucks bought more than a half billion kWh of wind power over the last year. In all, 59 percent of its power came from green energy. By the end of 2015, the retail chain hopes to source 100 percent of its energy used in US and Canadian stores from renewables.

So readers, any suggestions about how Starbucks can reach its 25 percent goal?

Comment on this article below, or join our LinkedIn Group, Energy Efficiency Markets.


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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


  1. Brian Dimick says:

    We are a mechanical contractor that services Starbucks locations in Maryland and Northern Virginia. Starbucks maintain their equipment and when it is time for replacement, they use high efficient unis where possible. An ongoing problem they are having is the extra heat load produced by the new freezers they are installing in the stores. When a unit serving the back of the house needs replacing we are either upsizing the equipment or adding additional system to overcome the additional heat load. If the system is a packaged rooftop unit we are installing economizers to give them free cooling in the winter. The issue arrises when a store has only one unit serving the space. The back of the house is always calling for cooling while the customer area is calling for heat. A Mitsubishi VRF system is the answer to this problem. Via the refirgeration piping instead of rejecting the heat to the outdoors, it sends the rejected heat to the front of the store eliminating the electric/gas needed to heat that zone. Unlike a conventional HVAC systems the Mitsubishi system with its inverter compressor technology only works as hard as it needs to based on space requirements. This Mitshbishi system will also work on the locations that have multiple systems serving the same space.

  2. Use remote condensers to take the heat from freezers outside. Place exhaust hoods directly over hot spots from cooking. Use heat pump water heaters to help cool the area while producing hot water. Hire a professional kitchen consultant that specializes in energy efficient design using water cooled appliances and integrated water heating.

  3. This is a problem becoming classic in modern energy management: PR sets efficiency goals, marketing measures results, while engineers are being blamed for missing targets.

    Starbucks makes $$ by serving food and drinks. Why do they measure energy consumption in kWh/sft??? The problem they present is in accounting, not in engineering. Solution is simple: include outdoor space and kwh/sft will drop at once. Bingo.

    Seriously though, Starbucks should separate energy used in food preparation and in heating/ cooling/lighting. This will open a possibility to actually see what’s happening and act accordingly. Until this is done, any evaluation of any solution is a competition in pitches from vendors. Installing new equipment is the last measure to consider and the most expensive one.
    Next steps would be:
    – review if installed solutions are actually utilised, eg daylight works only as long as it’s paired with light-sensor based lighting controls
    – review if use some equipment can be avoided, eg awnings
    – review how rejected heat can be reused within the same shop, eg heating shop area with heat rejected from cooking/storing equipment
    – review if heating/cooling distribution network is optimized, eg air intake is far from exhaust, ducts are untangled

    • Olaf Dybinski says:

      Exactly, I agree with Anatoli.

      Other case, if there is a reason why energy required for so called technology (food, drinks) can not be considered separetely, you should consider total energy efficiency change – it means, you should include amount of production.
      It is said that more and more people are eating lunches in Starbucks, so obvious thing is that energy use per square meter is increasing. However, if you compare energy use to ex. prepared hot meals, you will see that application of LEDs and more efficient freezers and ventilation makes huge energy savings.

  4. Energy Efficiency controls for walk-in coolers & freezers that deliver verifiable kWh savings for the long-term.

  5. Steven Estergreen says:

    Starbucks is a BUSINESS. Its accounting measure should be $ of revenue per kWh of energy. And the number should be getting BIGGER, not smaller. No, I’m not an accountant or a banker. I am an engineer. But, Starbucks is a place to sell food and drink, and to make a profit while doing so. If they stop doing that, they should stop using energy, whether renewable or not.

  6. Sharon lukasavage says:

    You gotta be kidd8ng. Energy savings. Why not put solar panels on the outside of the buildings. Wind is ok but public utilities is misusing it and not reporting electric income correctly. I live off grid for 20 years solar, passive solar and wind. I need nothing and have 3xtra. I do not connect with publ8c. They go down you go down.

    Also At the moment I am sitting uder 5 ceiling heaters on full blast. Would be more efficient to put space heat around instead of trying to heat smiths grocery store. Seems rather ridiculous to have heaters where smiths doors facing west are constantly open. People want it as they come in.

    Also I have had to tell personnel and do it myself to turn the heaters down. One man’s neck and ears were turning red. My computer heats up. Seems over kill. Way to hot for people . Even the staff complains when doing store activity and they have to stand under these heaters. There are alternatives.

    Better look into different set up at smith’s in Edgewood NM. Can’t imagine the electric bill. I have a few suggestions. Redesign to block cold from doors. Etc.