Energy Adviser: Incentives spark energy savings for businesses

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Businesses looking to squeeze every nickel out of a dollar might be able to cut waste and reduce the costs associated with lighting, heating and cooling for their buildings. According to Energy Star, lighting accounts for the largest share of their energy cost — 35 percent. Heating and cooling together fall into second place at 22 percent. Targeting these areas for efficiency improvements can reduce bottom-line facility costs.

Monique Still, asset manager for EP Properties, LLC, worked with Debbie DePetris, Clark Public Utilities key accounts manager, to identify several energy-efficiency improvements in the six buildings at Park Plaza. The complex received utility incentives to upgrade the business park's heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

"By improving the efficiency of our heating and cooling system, we lowered the operating cost of our 17-year-old complex by 30 percent, and increased comfort and control for our tenants," said Still. The new system installed by TraneOregon included software that calculates the amount of time needed to warm up or cool down the buildings and runs accordingly.

The Park Plaza incentive was part of the utility's custom commercial projects program that currently pays 20 cents per kilowatt-hour saved, as much as 50 percent of the total project costs.

Participate in incentives

Before purchasing any energy-saving products, check out the "Your Business" tab on the utility's website to learn about the available programs and the types of projects covered by incentives for both industrial and commercial businesses. Then contact Clark Public Utilities and speak with one of their energy-efficiency program managers who can help get you started and answer questions about the program.

"To start a new project, we'll work with customers to review electricity usage and identify potential areas for improved efficiency," said Sam Walker, program manager for the utility. The utility's energy-efficiency team will look at the energy-consumption data and analyze the energy-usage patterns of a building. Savings opportunities will be identified based on the energy intensity of a building or industrial process, as well as how past year's usage compares to the current year's usage, and the data may be weather-normalized to account for changes in weather that could affect usage patterns.

"Business customers that have the interest can even dive in and analyze their building themselves," Walker said. "We have diagnostic equipment available for loan including an ultrasonic compressed air leak detector, an infrared camera and a power quality analyzer with data logging power capabilities." There is no charge to borrow any of the tools.

With data in hand, customers can work closely with the energy-efficiency staff to identify no- or low-cost measures or energy-saving projects that make sense and meet a company's internal benchmarks or return on investment requirements.

"Once we've identified potential for cutting energy waste, we can help them implement the energy-efficiency upgrades," Walker said.

The utility assigns all businesses their own project manager to work with, so if you're interested in finding ways to reduce energy waste at work, you should call the utility and connect with your dedicated account representative to walk through next steps.

In 2012, the utility worked with business customers to complete 99 commercial and industrial projects, saving 34.5 million kilowatt hours and paying out $4.33 million in incentives. Why does Clark offer incentives for business customers to use less of their product?

"These projects are our cheapest energy resource, said Walker. "We saved enough energy last year to power nearly 2,400 new homes."


Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.