Byline: Kristin Young

LOS ANGELES — Kmart Corp. said Thursday it received a $2 million grant from the California Energy Commission that it will put toward reducing energy consumption at about half of its 172 stores in the Golden State.
That makes Kmart the only retailer of apparel to receive funds from the Sacramento-based state agency for this purpose. The Troy, Mich.-based discounter beat out dozens of other public and private entities that applied for the funding. “They had to have a viable plan, and savings that were really going to be delivered before June 1,” said CEC advisor Rosella Shapiro, explaining the grant criteria.
The CEC awarded a total of $10 million to various public and private entities in an effort to reduce California energy consumption. Shapiro said she was unable to provide names of the other awardees.
Starting on March 1, Kmart will begin replacing old lighting fixtures at about 85 of its doors, primarily in San Francisco and San Diego — two areas that have been worst hit by rolling blackouts, power outages and higher utility rates.
Kmart said the new lighting will reduce consumption by roughly 40 percent and save about eight megawatts of power. It costs $1 million to generate a single megawatt, according to Shapiro.
“To generate eight megawatts would cost $8 million, so this is a big savings,” she said. “We’re saving eight megawatts for only $2 million. If you generate those eight megawatts you use water, fuel and pollute the air. If you save those megawatts, you don’t.”
As a result, the CEC has spent $43 million in recent months to save 281 megawatts, Shapiro said, by “having everybody use a little bit less.”
Like other retailers in the state, Kmart has already begun power reduction efforts such as turning off some store lights during peak hours of energy use, or extinguishing exterior lighting. Kmart is also exploring renewable energy resources such as solar- and wind-generated power, according to a spokeswoman for the company. The spokeswoman said Kmart has not experienced any blackouts or power outages at its 172 California stores during the crisis.
But Kmart is bracing itself for fallout, nonetheless. “The increase in energy prices is a potential problem for our customers,” she acknowledged.
In other energy crisis news, the California state legislature is nearing final passage of a bill that will allow the state to purchase up to $10 billion worth of power, provide much-needed funds to beleaguered state utilities Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison, and in exchange give taxpayers an ownership stake in the utilities through what amounts to stock options.
The measure, which cleared the state Senate Wednesday and passed the Assembly Thursday, was endorsed by Gov. Gray Davis and lauded by Democrats and Republicans alike as having the best chance the state has to extricate itself from the crisis. It will almost certainly raise utility rates for millions of users.

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