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PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. — For years, lighting was simply thought of as a necessary evil for convenience stores; nothing more than a necessity at both the forecourt and inside the store.
However, since the invention of LED and similar lighting formats, the game has changed. And as Sergio Delmico, CEO of MNV Energy LLC, an operator of 24 BP-, Chevron-, Shell- and Mobil-branded convenience stores in Florida, found out, it is possible to upgrade lighting systems without ever having to open your checkbook.
In the past year, Delmico partnered with Future Energy Solutions (FES) to implement a new lighting system at seven of his locations. His goal is to upgrade all 24 in the near future, once all the required permitting is obtained.
The stores that have already undergone the lighting upgrade — one each in Pompano Beach, Hollywood and Miramar, and two each in Pembroke Pines and Naples — are not in “high-crime” areas, but Delmico stressed that customers instantly noticed the difference when the new lighting was implemented.
“We are very happy,” he said. “Our stores are brightly lit, which to me is a safety issue. Our customers, especially women, feel safer at our stations. We’ve also saved a lot of money on electric bills.”
Instead of sending a check to FES to cover the cost of the new lighting systems, Delmico passes on a percentage of his utility bill savings to FES, which will maintain lighting at the c-store for a 15-year period following the installation as part of its Gold Initiative program. At the beginning of the term, FES, whose U.S. headquarters is in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is paid by keeping 75 percent of the energy savings generated, giving the retailer the remaining 25 percent.
As time goes on, the retailer keeps a higher percentage of the energy savings based upon utility price increases. By the end of the 15-year period, a retailer generally keeps about 75 percent of the cost savings of the new lighting, with FES pocketing the remaining 25 percent, Daniel Gold, CEO of FES, told Convenience Store News.
“We create a cash flow for [c-store operators] that they couldn’t create themselves,” Gold said. “And we create it essentially forever.”
Delmico told CSNews he currently saves between $3,000 and $4,000 per store, per year, in energy costs on a net basis after FES takes its percentage of the savings.
Each lighting upgrade, whether at the forecourt, in-store or both, utilizes a mixture of LED and induction lights to create the optimal environment for the consumer, according to Gold.
“LED is what is most often offered [by competitors] because it’s ‘sexy’ for the vendor and offers them great margins,” Gold explained. “My company is not like that. When we come to gas station owners, they will never use their money, their [capital expenditures] or a single nickel of income to purchase these lights. We put our lights in at no charge, we install them at no charge, and we maintain them at no charge.”
MNV ENERGY'S IMPRESSIVE GROWTH
MNV Energy was founded by Delmico upon coming to the United States from Brazil. He impressively grew the operation from one convenience store to 24 in just three and a half years.
It wasn't long before Delmico realized he wanted to upgrade the lighting across his c-store network.
“We were searching for some time to find a new lighting company,” he recalled. “We found Daniel and his company and talked to him for about three or four months. We liked what he had to say.”
A key step in the FES partnership has been to look at each of Delmico’s locations differently, something some other lighting companies do not do, Gold maintained. “We look at what the owner is trying to achieve at each site,” Gold noted. “How dark is it? Where is it located? Are the canopies different?”
From Gold's perspective, the relationship is a win-win.
“Sergio started with just one store and grew to 24 already. I know he has great aspirations to grow the business even more. Wherever he goes, we get to go, too,” he concluded.