WHY BUSINESSES SHOULD CARE ABOUT ENERGY EFFICIENCY
by Steve Oliver
The Sacramento area economy continues to grow , thriving in
the wake of the Great Recession 10 years ago with new and existing business expansion . With that growth comes new opportunities , as well as some challenges for our community .
Growth can mean more jobs , revenue and tax receipts , all beneficial to regional quality of life . Growth can also present unintended consequences — higher cost of living and increased traffic come to mind . There are also energy challenges , especially in our area where heavy air conditioning use during the summer can strain electricity supplies . And businesses — large , medium and small — tend to use more energy than homes or apartments . As a result , energy costs can increase significantly on hot summer afternoons .
In California , most utilities , including community-owned SMUD , charge commercial customers different rates depending on the time of day . Businesses can save considerably on their bottom line by planning their electricity use for more economical periods and reducing the amount used through efficiency .
Business customers realize not only lower operational costs by being more energy efficient , but they also reap environmental benefits for themselves and their communities . Our community — because we experience very hot summers — can benefit significantly from a cleaner and greener approach to energy use . Reducing peak demand on the electrical grid , which is especially valuable during heat waves , helps reduce “ upstream ” power plant carbon emissions . Air quality is improved when power plants run less .
We know business owners are busy people . What with keeping customers satisfied , managing employees , making payroll and tackling other critical tasks , concern about inefficient lights or air conditioning may not always be on the to-do list . But it should be : Because energy efficiency is low-hanging fruit when it comes to reducing business expenses and increasing profit .
Business customers realize not only lower operational costs by being more energy efficient , but they also reap environmental benefits for themselves and their communities .
LOW-HANGING FRUIT Thankfully , energy efficiency is often easy to do and there ’ s a lot of help available . California utilities have decades of energy efficiency experience working with business customers to reduce energy costs and save money .
Some efficiency improvements are very inexpensive and easy to get going , while more expensive upgrades can be financed — with the goal of delivering net positive cash flow when energy bill savings exceed monthly payments . Consider some of the options :
• Switching to cost-effective components like LED lighting , programmable thermostats , occupancy sensors
• Revisiting energy management system strategies that control building performance by ensuring that schedules , temperature set points , economizer operation and other programming elements are optimized and functioning as intended ( because these control strategies are complex , and problems can be difficult to detect , California utilities offer financial support through retrocommissioning programs )
• Changing out major equipment , and upgrades to heating and cooling equipment , windows and sophisticated controls at existing facilities
• Designing new buildings for high efficiency ( incentives from SMUD are available for the building owner and the construction design team )
• The Department of Energy ’ s Energy-Star program certifies a range of efficient appliances from basic office equipment to large-scale uninterruptible power supplies for data centers
• Other commercial appliances , like restaurant food service equipment are frequently supported with utility rebates ( to offset the cost of efficient equipment ) Another benefit to a business becoming more energy efficient : Efficient buildings can more easily be supported with renewable generation or with green pricing programs . Many utilities also offer community solar programs . These programs provide long-term rate stability so a business can predict its utility expenses .
These benefits may be very useful for some businesses that need to meet or exceed corporate sustainability goals . They also deliver significant public relations value and the benefits of being green .