As the expiration of electrical rate caps in PPL’s territory approaches, businesses of all sizes are looking at their electricity bills and considering ways to save energy and cut power costs.
After rate caps expire in 2010, utility costs are expected to increase significantly for residential, commercial, and industrial consumers.
CAN DO wants to help companies save money, improve the environment, and help employers retain jobs. CAN DO has developed a turnkey network of energy providers and consultants that can customize a project to reduce a company’s usage or reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
CAN DO will help companies by arranging for energy audits to determine areas of possible savings and improvements. After the audit, CAN DO will then work to secure funding to install energy-saving equipment – saving electricity bills and reducing energy consumption and pollution.
“Right now there is a special push to small business because most of the incentive financing available helps small business, not large industry that can usually afford to make these improvements due to the quick payback,” said Bernadette J. DeBias, CAN DO Energy Solutions Program manager. “CAN DO is able to help qualified small businesses with 100 employees or less tap into the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Energy Efficiency Grant Program, which will provide a percentage of the total project costs, and other DEP ‘green financing,’ such as very-low-interest loans to pay for these projects.
“In short, these energy efficiency projects will help the company save money and reduce energy usage, which reduces pollutants into the environment from fossil fuel generation,” DeBias added. This will also help the utilities achieve a targeted 3-percent reduction in energy usage mandated via Act 129 legislation that must occur by 2013.”
A recent CAN DO energy-efficiency success story is Atticks, Inc., an importer/distributor of permanent florals and foliages, wreaths, floral containers, holiday and home décor, ribbons, and novelties. Atticks, located in Valmont Industrial Park, has been a wholesaler to florists, garden centers, and gift shops in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states since 1975.
In 2008, company owner Lisa Finkelstein met with representatives of CAN DO and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (NEPIRC) to speak about an energy audit of Atticks.
CAN DO initiated a free energy audit by The First Energy Group, one of NEPIRC’s approved energy auditing companies. The audit determined that a lighting upgrade project would save Atticks 34,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) a year.
“We believe that by replacing our lighting, we will save about $5,000 a year on the company’s electrical bill – and that’s just to start,” Finkelstein said. “As the rate caps come off, we expect our savings to grow.
“But this is more than about saving money on electricity costs,” Finkelstein added. “These upgrades – which will begin in a few weeks – will provide more light, and more natural-looking light, which will be better for my employees.”
Tim Ostrosky, senior energy manager at The First Energy Group, said the Atticks project will replace 144 light fixtures with new tubes, ballasts, and reflective fixtures. Doing that will drop the amount of energy used by the lights from 58,772 kWh per year to 24,880 kWh –a reduction of 58 percent.
DeBias explained that because Atticks was an eligible small business, CAN DO was able to assemble a funding package of energy grants and low-interest loans that funded 100 percent of the lighting upgrade project.
“The funding package was designed so there was no out-of-pocket cost to the company,” DeBias said. “The energy savings will pay their debt service on the loan, and a few hundred dollars of extra monthly savings will occur immediately upon implementation of the project and go directly to the bottom line of the company.”
DeBias said a new series of DEP’s Energy Efficiency grants for small business is expected to be released in the next few weeks, after with the passage of the state budget. She noted that CAN DO is poised to help companies obtain energy audits and will help them secure financing. In order to receive CAN DO’s help, a company must have a minimum project size of $25,000 and employ less than 100 employees. Companies with smaller projects are encouraged to directly apply to the state for the DEP Energy Efficiency Grant.
“Local companies looking to reduce their operating costs can certainly take advantage of these grants, so we strongly encourage them to contact CAN DO to find out if they qualify,” DeBias said. “In these challenging economic times, an energy audit can determine where significant cost savings can be realized, and the combination of available grants and very-low-interest financing can make those savings a reality.”
CAN DO President Kevin O’Donnell noted another benefit of the energy efficiency program.
“Saving money on energy costs can help companies retain jobs,” he said. “That will benefit the companies in terms of productivity, and it will benefit Greater Hazleton and the local economy.”
There is also the environmental impact. The Atticks lighting upgrade project will reduce annual electricity consumption for the company by 34,000 kWh. Generating that power creates about 52,000 pounds – 26 tons – of carbon dioxide each year.
“Saving this amount of energy is the equivalent of planting 10 acres of trees, plus taking five cars off the road, plus saving 3,081 gallons of gasoline,” Ostrosky said, noting that The First Energy Group has saved its customers more than 284 million kWh over the last 20 years.
In 2008, CAN DO launched CAN DO Energy Solutions, which helps small and large companies achieve meaningful energy solutions through partnering with credible vendors, financing projects through incentive programs, reducing operating costs, and retaining jobs. CAN DO has put together a network of energy providers that offer a variety of renewable options and energy efficiency solutions to help companies reduce their energy usage and bills. The providers perform services including energy upgrades, reverse electricity auctions, turnkey energy efficiency solutions, free energy audits, and wind, solar, and geothermal renewable options, and carbon reduction strategies while CAN DO assists in coordinating the green financing to make the project happen.
Energy audits show businesses how they can decrease energy use and costs while increasing productivity and corporate competitiveness. Reverse electricity auctions help companies using large amounts of power buy power at rates up to 10 percent less than market rates, and turnkey solutions include a full range of services such as energy audits, cost-saving tactics, and financing.
The federal government has established a large variety of incentives, including investment, production, and renewable energy tax credits, related to green energy, with wind and solar power in particular. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has many incentives in place as well.
“The incentives along with the energy savings can even pay for a company’s loan for the cost of its energy efficiency project,” DeBias said. “CAN DO can help customize a financing package for each individual company based on its size and needs.”
For more information about the energy efficiency program, contact DeBias at (570) 455-1508.