Pay the Utility Companies Or Pay Yourself – You Decide

Last week I coordinated an Energy Efficiency Briefing for the Muskegon Area Sustainability Coalition specifically for K-12, higher education, government and non-profit building owners.  I see low hanging fruit opportunities every day in my travels while working with all of them. While many are encouraging alternative energy options – good old energy efficiency should come first.  So the agenda looked like this:

  1. Rebuild Michigan – there is a program offered by the Michigan Department of Energy for all of the above in addition to small commercial buildings less than 30,000 SF to come in and do an energy audit for up to 10 buildings.  Rebuild Michigan provides preliminary energy audits and related project support services to enrolled clients.  You must be able to provide 12 months worth of energy usage data.
  2. Green Revolving Funds – Next we heard from Dr. Matt Heun from Calvin College on how they established a Green Revolving Fund.  They put some seed money into it and then as they invested in energy efficiency upgrades, the savings calculated from those upgrades were reinvested into the fund to be able to do more projects.  There are other great examples of organizations that have established Green Revolving Funds or another name is Paid From Savings in West Michigan.  These can be established in any organization or business.  There is also a challenge out there for colleges and universities across the country to establish this type of system called Billion Dollar Green Challenge  Dr. Heun’s statement “Would you rather pay the utility company or pay yourself, you decide.” really resonated with me.  Here is a link to an interview with Shelley Irwin (WGVU Morning Show) interviewing Matt on January 15, 2014
  3. Consumers Energy and other utility company incentive plans was next up.  For several yeas now anyone paying for electric and natural gas in Michigan as been paying a fee towards a fund and all utility providers have been offering an incentive program to those that choose to implement qualified energy efficiency upgrades.  Consumers Energy program for 2014 has changed and new categories or projects within categories have been added.  So worth exploring.  I learned about possible projects that we should explore this year.  Don’t wait however as this ends after 2015 unless it is renewed and if you are not using the incentives all of that money is being distributed, so your neighbors are.
  4. Michigan Saves:  What if you could save hundreds on your monthly energy costs? With Michigan Saves financing up to $250,000, you can power your business with less energy by upgrading your facility and equipment.  A low-cost financing option however we should think of this as more of an investment and not financing.  We are investing now and immediately will start to save dollars.
  5. US Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter presents Battle of the Buildings Competition.  A Biggest Loser style competition for energy savings that will run the entire year of 2014.  Register on their website and you will need to use the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool (free) to report your energy usage data.  This free tool is easy to use and allows you to benchmark your building against similar buildings or to benchmark against your own building(s).  Join in the challenge – are you ready to rumble?  There will be workshops offered to Battle participants throughout the year, energy audits will be given away, and publicity and recognition throughout the year and a big celebration at the end of this competition.

Even though our company has been on this journey for awhile, it gave me new ideas to explore.  We have an energy score of 87 now which is great but there is still low hanging fruit and then we can talk about alternative energy to power our building and operations.


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