John Lewis eyes up hydrogen fuel

Rosie Baker is Marketing Week’s specialist on sustainability and retail – and the two topics often go hand-in-hand. Her blog focuses on all things to do with sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility and ethical business.

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Could the John Lewis department store due to open in Birmingham in 2014 be powered by zero-emission hydrogen fuel cells?

Quite possibly, if the deal it signed with AFC Energy yesterday (5 April) is anything to go by.

Retail chains often get a hard time because of the immense amount of energy it takes to power a big supermarket or department store.

There’s all the usual things like lighting, refrigerators, heating and water use not to mention the large volumes of often unrecyclable materials that go into temporary display units as part of in-store marketing campaigns.

So it’s no surprise that the many retailers, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer have made moves to build “eco-stores” that test radical technologies to green-up the buildings themselves.

They look at ways to improve the carbon footprint of the store, generate energy on site, minimise water use by collecting rainwater and finding ways to reuse the heat produced by food fridges to heat ambient areas in stores.

Retail chains often get a hard time because of the immense amount of energy it takes to power a big supermarket or department store

The John Lewis Partnership is going to test the technology that turns hydrogen and water into energy and produces warm water for heating at the same time, at an as yet unnamed store location.

If it is deemed “economically viable” it could roll out to other stores in the Waitrose and John Lewis estate.

If the Partnership is going to meet its target to reduce its carbon emissions by 15 per cent by the end of the 2020/21 trading year it’s going to need to get a lot of hydrogen fuel cells up and running.

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