Driving Energy Efficiency through Small Business Investment
By Adam Procell, Alliance Board Member and President, Lime Energy
The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of America’s businesses and workers, but perhaps none more so than small businesses, the backbone of our country. The financial pain is wide and deep across this sector, which represents 50% of all jobs in our country – a workforce of about 59 million. As the President of Lime, which itself is a small business, I feel the pain directly as we have already been forced to furlough more than one-third of our workforce while facing the prospect of further contraction in our team and an uncertain future.
Thankfully, Congress took bold and historic action to help address the immediate needs of businesses like ours and American workers everywhere through passage of the CARES Act, but much more will be needed to ensure that small businesses can recover quickly as we beat back the health onslaught that is COVID-19. And with this need comes an opportunity to do more than just “staunch the bleeding.” It’s also a chance to build in energy efficiency opportunities, an investment in small businesses that permanently lowers their operating costs. Energy efficiency will help small businesses today, as they start to claw back to profitability, and continue to benefit them well into the future as the energy savings persist.
The Alliance, working with its Associates and Board of Directors (on which I proudly serve), is developing a program proposal to couple federal funding with incentives already available through utility demand side management (DSM) programs for small businesses to make energy efficiency upgrades. The combination of federal and utility financial support would bring the project costs for participating small businesses to ZERO. Small businesses struggle to make these important investments in the best of times. During this recovery, even fewer will be able to do so, leaving them to continue paying for energy that they waste. But with free energy efficiency upgrades, participating small businesses could realize monthly savings of as much as 30-40% on their utility bills. Currently, 75% of America’s utilities offer DSM programs with an established infrastructure of program administrators, implementors, trade allies, and contractors that create a “tried and true” conduit for reaching small businesses all across the country. And, because the DSM program infrastructure is largely made up of small businesses, the influx of federal funding could ensure that these businesses not only can continue to employ their current workforce, but could also be able to create new jobs, which is critical in the recovery from the current economy-wide shut down.
The administration and Congress are already beginning to think about a fourth stimulus package and could act quickly, so the time is now to join with the Alliance to advocate for creation of a federal program to advance energy efficiency and rebuild energy efficiency jobs related to the small business sector. If you’re interested in learning more and/or being part of our campaign, please contact Jason Reott of the Alliance policy team at email@example.com.
Our country can and will recover from the pandemic and resulting economic crisis. And, with the leadership of the Alliance and your strong support, we also can help protect the energy efficiency industry and strengthen the small business sector by driving energy efficiency upgrades all across the country.
Be safe and stay well.