By Quinton Zondervan
Energy efficiency finance has been a recent battleground in the Commonwealth’s political arena. Eversource [the utility formerly known as NSTAR] has been seeking to cut the funding for demand side management, which translates to energy efficiency funding. The funding is available for both residential customers as well as small businesses. However, Eversource had trouble allocating the money to commercial and industrial (C&I) sector. An Eversource official recently stated that the company has sustained a surplus of funds due to lack of industry requests from local entrepreneurs. Small businesses are encouraged to apply for the energy efficiency funding via MassSave’s website. Installing energy efficient equipment has proven to help businesses save on energy expenses, as well as reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Eversource’s energy efficiency funding comes from a Massachusetts’ public benefits fund (worth $2bn for years 2013-2015). The program initially was established to help develop nation-leading energy efficiency plans by the Commonwealth’s investor-owned gas and electric utilities and energy providers. The energy efficiency programs administered by the Utility Energy Efficiency Program Administrators (which include such distributors as Eversource, Blackstone, etc.) operate in accordance with three-year plans developed in collaboration with the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC) and approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU).
Part of this funding was used to set up an initiative called MassSave. MassSave helps residents and businesses to increase their energy efficiency by providing technical and financial assistance. The initiative is largely build on sponsoring the cost of retrofitting products & services through a network of pre-selected vendors, with no upfront cost to consumers.
EEAC is having a meeting today, Monday, June 29th, that is open to the public. It will be dedicated to having an additional commentary concerning the Program Administrators’ third draft of Three-Year Statewide Energy Efficiency Investment Plans for 2016 – 2018; as well as 2015 Plan Year results thus far; and an update regarding the Council Consultants’ budget. If Eversource is successful in reducing the C&I budget, it will set a bad precedent for future Investment Plans.
The Small Businesses (SB) program provides free energy assessments to businesses. It then makes recommendations for efficiency measures, incentives, and financing options. Customers with peak demand of 300 kW or less are qualified to participate. The two main components of the SB program are 1) funding up to 70% of the cost for qualifying equipment such as lighting, energy management systems, etc., and 2) providing 0% interest financing options for customized solutions that did not qualify for sponsorship.
There is a wide range of systems and controls that small businesses could invest in. Qualifying upgrades include Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems (reduce energy consumption through coupling on-site energy generation with waste heat recovery), energy management systems (automatically turns off equipment when it’s not needed), lighting controls, process and manufacturing equipment, and many others. MassSave also provides technical assistance and engineering services, as well as commissioning and testing services. So far, MassSave has helped many customers reduce their energy costs and improve their facilities. The clientele is very diverse: from medical centers to schools to supermarkets.
As specified in the Small Businesses Program Process Evaluation Final Report (2015, March 23), the industry participation in these energy savings initiatives is low. Transportation, warehousing, and other services sectors had particularly low rates of participation. As small business leaders, you can make a difference in how these statistics change next year! MassSave (and the third-party vendors that the initiative works with) have made little effort to promote this opportunity for SBs. However, there is still time to apply for funding and make your business more energy efficient, and more profitable.
If you would like any assistance in requesting the funds from MassSave, as well as developing a sustainability program for your business, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.