Your Utility Can Help Lighten the Load

Did you know that the average American small business could save as much as $5,000 per year by becoming 25 percent more energy efficient? That’s what a study by the National Small Business Association discovered. It also found that if all small businesses made this effort, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 259 million tons -- or the equivalent of 51 coal-fired power plants!

No matter what type of green your business is counting, everybody wins with energy efficiency.

But the upfront costs of acquiring more energy-efficient equipment can often be a hurdle for small businesses. If you’re a small business owner looking to cut costs and do your part for the environment, your local utility may have innovative energy-efficiency programs and varying incentives to help. For instance, in San Diego County, where 95 percent of businesses are small businesses, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) launched a no-cost program targeting small to mid-sized commercial customers in February 2011, and many are taking advantage of it.

Called Direct Install, it’s also available from California’s other major utilities with a similar initiative offered through several New York State utilities. (Visit to find out what incentives apply for small businesses in your state.)

While the program may go by different names elsewhere and have various levels of costs associated with it, a call to your local utility should get the ball rolling. In San Diego, more than 2,000 sites have acquired state-of-the-art energy-efficient equipment before the end of the program’s first year. This includes the latest in energy-efficient lighting, refrigeration improvements, LED ‘open’ and ‘exit’ signs, vending misers and occupancy sensors.

Like many business owners, Patrick Conrad, owner of a FastFrame custom picture framing franchise in Solana Beach, Calif. said that becoming more energy efficient was something he was interested in but not an immediate priority. However, once he became familiar with SDG&E’s program, he was convinced it would be a good decision for his business.

“The program offered cost savings and benefits for the environment. It was a win-win,” said Conrad.

Now with the new energy-efficient LED lighting installed, Conrad has also noticed it more closely resembles outdoor light, which is important in the framing industry and another benefit that he hadn’t expected. “It was a significant improvement to my business, one of my best decisions ever.”

Through SDG&E’s program in San Diego and Southern Orange County, offices, bar and grilles, churches, fitness centers, barber shops and more have become more energy efficient without the upfront costs.

Qualifying businesses get a free energy consultation provided by the utility’s contracted specialists. The contractors identify where less-efficient equipment can be replaced with more energy-efficient products to reduce your energy use, carbon footprint and electric bill – all at no cost to you! And they’ll work with you to identify a convenient time for the equipment installation – during regular business hours or after-hours to minimize any disruption to your business.

With businesses seeking savings everywhere they can, teaming up with your utility on programs such as these is a smart move.

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