SAN FRANCISCO — After more than 50 years of on-the-job experience, it’s safe to say that Larry Montgomery, owner of North Shore Sentry, an independent grocery store in the North Bay Area, has learned a few things about how to prosper in the thin-margined grocery business. Over the past two years, Montgomery is projected to have saved more than 260,000 kWh and $34,000 in energy costs by upgrading to energy-efficient refrigeration and freezer equipment through the EnergySmart Grocer program. The upgrades and savings have also allowed Montgomery to elevate the appearance of North Shore Sentry and expand the amount of stock it offers.

“We have to look at everything we can to keep our energy costs down,” said Montgomery. With that goal in mind, in 2012, Montgomery took advantage of more than $15,000 of EnergySmart Grocer incentives to overhaul a set of refrigerated cases, installing LED lighting with motion sensors and retrofitting to energy-efficient motors. The incentives also helped offset the installation of a new energy management system. That year, North Shore Sentry saved more than $16,000 in energy costs.

The upgrades at North Shore Sentry continued through 2013, as Montgomery leveraged the money he saved from the previous year’s projects and replaced a set of old cases with a completely new set of highly efficient reach-in freezer cases, complete with LED lighting and anti-sweat heater controls. In addition to more than $9,000 of EnergySmart Grocer incentives, the project was financed through Pacific Gas & Electric’s On-Bill Financing program, which allowed Montgomery to pay for the project over a five-year period at zero percent interest.

The new, top of the line cases, in addition to being more energy efficient, have an additional important benefit. “We have about 10-15 percent more storage capacity, so now we can offer a much larger variety of frozen food than we could before,” said Montgomery. “And, because the inventory is larger, I can get better deals, which I can pass on to our customers.”

The new cases have proven to be an aesthetic enhancement as well. “Our customers appreciate that we have new, nice equipment in the store. People came in and oohed and aahed over them.”

When asked what he would tell his fellow grocers who might be on the fence about making upgrades to more energy-efficient equipment, Montgomery said, “It’s been a win-win for us. And in my experience, nothing gets cheaper as time goes on.”

The EnergySmart Grocer program provides no-cost energy assessments, technical assistance, and financial incentives to grocers seeking to lower their operating costs through energy-efficiency retrofits. The program helps stores reduce their energy use in the areas of refrigeration, HVAC, lighting, and food service equipment. EnergySmart Grocer operates in the electric utility territory of Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E). For more information, visit

Publication date: 3/10/2014

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