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Giant Eagle announces deal to power central Ohio stores with renewable energy

The exterior of a Giant Eagle grocery store in Columbus.
Debbie Holmes

Giant Eagle announced a long-term plan to power all of its central Ohio locations with renewable energy on Tuesday.

The grocery store chain said its agreement with NRG Energy brand Direct Energy Business will provide enough renewable electricity to power the company’s central Ohio Market District, Giant Eagle, and GetGo locations.

The deal amounts to 60 million kilowatt hours annually, which Giant Eagle said is the equivalent of offsetting CO2 emissions of over 7,500 homes’ annual electricity use.

“Giant Eagle is committed to building stronger and healthier communities in the areas we serve, and sustainability is a key pillar in that effort,” said Giant Eagle Vice President of Sustainability Justin Evans in a statement.

“This announcement brings us more than halfway to our ambitious goal of achieving 50% carbon neutrality by 2030, as we work toward a larger commitment to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040,” Evans said.

Giant Eagle spokesperson Jannah Jablonowski said the grocery industry has always been environmentally challenging.

"There are just so many facets of the business, from the energy and the carbon emissions that it takes to operate stores and to transport products," Jablonowski said. "When you think about all of the refrigerant that it takes to keep all of the good things in store cooled and frozen."

"We feel like we have this responsibility to be a good partner to these sustainability-oriented organizations, but also the community to just make sure we're making the right decisions to protect our environment for generations to come," she said.

Nolan Rutschilling, Managing Director of Energy Policy for the Ohio Environmental Council, said the Giant Eagle deal likely involves purchasing what are called renewable energy credits—verifiable credits that demonstrate that somewhere on the grid, renewable energy is being generated, which companies then purchase.

"So rather than purchasing through a standard electric provider, which might be more natural gas or coal, they're stepping up and purchasing 100% renewable energy from NRG," Rutschilling said.

Rutchilling said the deal is "great news" for the renewable energy industry, as an increasing number of major employers and large energy users move toward renewable energy.

"These companies are definitely going to encourage more development of renewable energy by demonstrating demand. But in the end, I think they'll end up saving money as well. So it's a good business decision," he said.

The announcement comes on the heels of the recent news that Giant Eagle will be eliminating all plastic bags in Columbus area stores beginning next month.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.