Energy Efficiency

Energy Efficiency

Small businesses facing rising energy costs possess four basic options for dealing with the problem in ways that benefit their bottom line: (1) increased energy efficiency; including use of On-Bill-Financing; (2) use of micropower devices; (3) use of fuel efficient vehicles; and (4) proper maintenance of existing equipment.

America’s 25 million small businesses now produce 51 percent of the private sector output, make 47 percent of all sales, and employ more than half the country’s private work force. That’s half of the economy! And get this: the small business half of the economy consumes 48% of all electricity and 39% of all natural gas used for commercial and industrial purposes in the United States. Unfortunately, small businesses waste 1/3 to 1/2 of all this energy through needless inefficiency. They are throwing money down the drain that could be going into their pockets.

Basically, what small businesses need are no-hassle, affordable ways to obtain energy efficiency upgrades. Fortunately, there are several ways this can be done. The best source of information about them can be found on the Energy Star for Small Business website.


Good management of the energy you purchase is entirely consistent with the attributes that have traditionally made small business a remarkably creative, productive, and resilient social institution. These attributes are:

(1) Self-reliance. The best way to cope with rising energy costs and threats of supply unreliability is to take matters into your own hands. This can be effectively now through exercise of options under your control: energy conservation, increased efficiency, and investments in micropower technologies.

You shouldn’t rely on the government or public utilities to do this for you. Indeed, when it comes to energy, the mistrust that many small business owners feel for big, remote, centralized systems is fully justified. For example, building more nuclear power plants may sound like a good idea but to do so will take decades and cost billions.

Small business owners need energy solutions now, not years from now. That’s up to you more than anyone else.

(2) Thrift. The first step is to wring every cent you can out of energy costs by proper maintenance of existing equipment. For example, get your heating systems and air conditioners regularly tuned-up. Some simple steps — identifying duct leaks, checking airflow, cleaning coils and changing filters — will work wonders, reducing energy use up to 40%.

The second step is to increase energy efficiency. About one-third to one-half of all the energy small business consumes is wasted through inefficiency. This is especially prevalent in small businesses that are energy intensive users: restaurants, corner groceries, convenience stores, motels, laundries, bakeries, and small commercial/industrial malls and small manufacturers. Typically, small enterprises can reduce their energy bills by up to 30 percent through energy efficiency upgrades.

(3) Ingenuity. Rising energy costs are likely to be the pattern of the future. Brownouts and blackouts may also increase caused by an aging infrastructure. What to do? You probably have no better way to get reliable and affordable energy than from installing your own on-site generating equipment.

These “micropower” technologies are small, modular devices that generate electric power on a relatively small scale and that are designed to produce power close to where it is actually used. Micropower devices include fuel cells, solar photovoltaics, small wind technologies, micro-free-flow hydropower power, and so on. You should explore use of micropower to see how they can be packaged in ways that work best for you.

(4) Prudence. Other threats of instability of energy supply must be borne in mind. Severe weather events, for example, may be on the increase, triggered perhaps by global warming. Terrorist attacks on energy facilities might occur.

It would be prudent to act now while practical and affordable options are readily available. It will infinitely harder to deal with these problems in the midst of an emergency. As noted above, you can even acquire energy independence by investing in micropower technologies. Terrorists are unlikely to attack the small windmill in your backyard or the refrigerator-sized fuel cell in your basement.

(5) Help each other. Small business owners are good at forming self-help groups in order to protect their interests and to save them money, time and trouble. Why should energy be any different? Aggregating small businesses to address energy needs as a group means that owners will get better service and lower costs. The simplest step is to encourage your trade association to add energy management to the list of services it provides.

National Automobile Dealers Association

Size: Represents more than 20,000 new-car and truck dealers around the world.

Savings: If all dealerships in the U.S. were to reduce their energy consumption by just 10 percent, they would save approximately $193 million in energy costs and eliminate more than 1 million tons of greenhouse gases every year.

Mission: Billing itself as “the voice of the dealer,’ NADA offers its members advice on legal and regulatory matter; represents them in Washington, D.C.; develops research data on the auto industry and provides programs to help dealerships improve their business practices.

National Small Business Association

Size: Reaches more than 150,000 small business across the country.

Savings: The ENERGY STAR Small Business program estimates easy energy-efficiency improvements of 10-to-30 percent are obtainable for most small businesses through the implementation and adoption of easy “best practices” and inexpensive technologies.

If you are a small business owner and you would like to explore ways in which you might realize these savings, please join NSBA’s ENERGY STAR Challenge. It is both cost and commitment-free.

Mission: As the nation’s oldest small-business advocacy organization, NSBA protects the interests of America’s small-business community on the full spectrum of legislative and regulatory issues.