LIVING SUSTAINABLY: Task Force Shows Businesses How Energy Efficiency Wins
By Brian Pageau (Hope College Alumni ’03), Commercial Institutional Task Force for Energy Efficiency
In my six-plus years of helping organizations pursue energy efficiency in buildings, I have met with more than 1,000 business owners and decision makers. I can confidently say 99 percent of the people I met love the concept of energy efficiency.
Some people love energy efficiency for reasons like financial stewardship and energy independence. Others like the environmental stewardship. Energy efficiency is driven by innovation in technology, and innovation drives our economy and job growth.
Energy efficiency is good for the environment, good for national economic competitiveness, good for the wallet and creates jobs. That’s a lot of wins.
And yet, less than 15 percent of those same 1,000 businesses and people strategically and proactively pursue energy efficiency. Even though they desire to be more energy efficient, they do not take action to be more energy efficient.
This is true among churches, schools and non-profits as well as retail, commercial, manufacturing and industrial businesses. With few exceptions, they all have a gap between desire and action.
Why? Three main reasons:
1. Lack of knowledge. Simply put, if someone doesn’t know a particular type of technology exists, it will not be implemented.
2. Lack of an attractive business case. In the world of business, every project is competing for the same dollar. If an energy efficiency project is “cool” but doesn’t pay back within the company return-on- investment threshold, it will not be prioritized.
3. Lack of capital. An organization might be aware of great energy efficient technology, and the business case might meet necessary criteria. But if the cost is $100,000 that’s not in the budget, most times the project will get shelved.
The Commercial/Institutional Task Force for Energy Efficiency is part of Holland’s 40-year Community Energy Plan. This past year, the task force conducted a pilot program with 13 small businesses and churches to determine what inspired action towards energy efficiency.
It addressed those three roadblocks between desire and action:
1. We built a program that delivered easily digestible energy information. This information was contextualized to the specific building and type of business.
2. We helped participants understand the business case for energy efficient technology and what it would mean to their bottom line each month.
3. We minimized the capital needed to implement the project by making people aware of Holland Board of Public Works and SEMCO utility incentives and financing options.
The results? Five of the 13 organizations implemented energy efficiency projects that created over $120,000 worth of contracting work in our community.
These projects collectively represented an average of 3.5-year return on investment in energy savings and realized a 30.1 percent savings in gas and electric consumption.
When factoring in the utility incentives, these projects are now saving the organizations about $25,000 per year.
With the right links between desire and action, these organizations learned how energy efficiency can be a win in multiple ways!
Brian Pageau is spokesperson for the Commercial Institutional Task Force for Energy Efficiency, president of the Midwest Energy Group and a board member of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council.
MINIT MART CASE LIGHTS.JPG Simple steps such as using LED lights in the cooler cases are part of a plan to save energy at the Washington Square Minit Mart. Courtesy photo by Barry Rutherford, Holland Board of Public Works.
Economic Development: Businesses and the local consumers are driving engines that generate capital for growth and development. We want to be a location of choice for new business and industry.
Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland, and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.