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Energy Efficiency for Small Businesses

By April 3, 2012December 26th, 2021Briefs

Approaching small businesses regarding energy efficiency programs is a challenge. Energy consumption in most small businesses is not high enough to justify the fixed cost of an energy efficiency program. In addition, customer issues such as energy are not high on the list of priorities, and if business owners rent their space, this complicates project implementation further. Most energy efficiency programs use a technology focus with direct install, and of course, the technology almost always targets lighting as it is the key energy user in the facility and the easiest to change. Some programs also target short payback items such as air conditioning maintenance. The bottom line is that these programs are costly from a $/kWh saved perspective and do not accomplish significant savings.

It’s time for a different approach that produces significant results. This approach focuses the program on target markets and going for deep energy savings while establishing processes for the customer to promote some persistence of savings. The following is an example of an energy efficiency program targeting convenience stores (C-Stores).

Since this is a narrowly focused program, a list of measures for the facility type were identified. Some assumptions were made concerning operating hours, standard equipment efficiencies, and a simple payback for the package of measures. This defined a measure list with inputs that were verified with a brief, on-site visit to modify the energy and dollar savings specific to that facility. A screening method was also developed based on energy intensity to ensure the potential to save energy exists before visiting a facility.

A market analysis was also conducted to determine whether energy efficiency would be positively received by the customer and to determine the best approach to “sell” energy efficiency to the customer’s management. In the case of C-stores, this analysis revealed that owners and operators would be very receptive to the program and that the best approach would be at the regional level. In addition, program elements were added, such as financing, bill monitoring, and verification of savings, to ensure implementation. The program was easy for the customer to participate in because the processes were streamlined for participation and the technologies were analyzed ahead of time.

This program provides a package of measures for implementation that has a simple payback of three years or less. This package is very attractive to the customer. What are the results?

Average savings are projected to be 20% of the customer’s total electric consumption. The cost of the program including facility assessment, incentives, and contractor admin cost is about 15 cents per kWh saved. This does not include utility program management.

This combination of deep energy savings impact and low program cost make this a very compelling program design for small business customers. Will this work with other types of end users? Yes. One such will produce savings of 20% for electricity and 18% for natural gas. Direct program costs are 6.3 cents per kWh saved and 48 cents per therm saved. This is a pilot program and these results are for a small sample thus far.

Michaels Energy

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