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Ask CJ-How can businesses become energy efficient without overspending?

“You have to spend money to save money” is an expression used by many women to justify their shopping habits.  When I say “many women” I really am speaking for myself but it feels better to try and create a community.  The saying is quite true on levels that go well beyond trips to Cole Haan’s outlet sale or an upright freezer filled with boxes of waffles and Texas Toast. 

If you spend money providing educational opportunities for your business’s staff you should expect to save money in the long run with better productivity.  If you invest in marketing, your business should reap the rewards with increased activity.  Another smart investment that companies are making, anticipating a future payoff, is in energy efficiency.  You may have to spend money to save money, but there are some fantastic energy efficiency programs available now that can reduce the initial investment required.

Bob Reals, bob.reals@dred.state.nh.us, manages two energy programs through our office; an energy audit program as well as a technical assistance program.  The energy audit grant program, funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), has been so successful that Bob expects all of the allotted funds will soon be expended.  Through the program, 80 New Hampshire businesses have received in-depth energy audits, as well as assistance in securing low-interest loans to implement those recommendations. 

While our grant funding may be winding down, our office continues to provide technical assistance which helps businesses navigate the numerous energy efficiency resources.  For a list of those resources, visit our website, http://www.nheconomy.com/business-services/energy-efficiency-programs.aspx.  After reading the list, I’m glad to know Bob is available to help you weed through it all and make the process easier. 

What impresses me is that you can utilize more than one program at a time.  For instance, The Retail Merchants Association of NH will pay for 60% of the cost of an energy audit for its members (non-members pay a $100 application fee).  The group then offers rebates for 20% of the implementation costs, up to $30,000.  A qualifying business can combine this program with our program, which would cover the other 40% of the energy audit.  Both organizations will work with the business to see that any and all other rebates and incentive programs have been uncovered for maximum savings. 

Ken Young of Young’s Restaurant in Durham took advantage of the RMANH program and he expects to save nearly 50% on his energy costs.  “I knew that there had to be opportunities for me to reduce my energy costs, but did not realize the significant savings that could be realized through efficiency.  The entire audit process was a great education for me.  In just the first couple months after the project, I am seeing cost savings that I would have never guessed could have been achieved while greatly improving the comfort within the restaurant”.  While our office is funded through ARRA funds, the program at RMANH is funded through a grant from the Public Utilities Commission’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (RGGI).

You don’t need to own your building to make improvements.  Tenants can work with their landlords to create a more efficient and valuable facility.

Last week I met with an Exeter business who has been working with Unitil to take advantage of the rebates and incentives that they offer their utility customers.  The company has already used Unitil’s incentive program to replace all of their lighting and they are now in the process and looking into replacing their entire HVAC system with more energy efficient units.  Through the RGGI program Unitil is able to offer a 0% On Bill Financing in which a company can borrow up to $50,000 to implement energy efficiency improvements.  In addition to the program offered by Unitil the company is working with our office to seek out additional assistance with their project to complement Unitil’s program.

You still need to spend money to save money but it may be a heck of a lot less than you envisioned and the long-term savings and environmental impact may be a deal you just can’t turn down.

Christine J. Davis works for the N.H. Division of Economic Development as a resource specialist serving businesses in Rockingham and Strafford counties. Her role is to connect businesses with the available resources so that they may remain viable and growing entities in the community. She can be reached at Christine.Davis@dred.state.nh.us.

Ms. Davis lives in Exeter with her two daughters.  When not performing her work or parenting duties she can be found volunteering with her girls for the Chamber Children’s Fund, “hitting the gym,” or spending time with friends and family.

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