In the grand scheme of things, energy efficiency likely is not a high priority for the owner of the average small- to medium-sized business who's busy with so many other tasks.
But the savings from taking even small steps can be significant, representatives from ComEd and Nicor Gas told a group of suburban business leaders Thursday during the Daily Herald Business Ledger's Newsmakers' Forum on Energy Efficiency and Management.
The representatives outlined their respective utility's energy efficiency programs to about 120 suburban business executives and entrepreneurs at the event held at Medinah Banquets in Addison. They both stressed that businesses that use energy-saving measures not only realize savings on their bills, but also help the utility companies manage the amount of energy they need to supply overall.
"Energy efficiency has definitely had an impact on us," said Steve Baab, manager of ComEd's Smart Idea for Your Business program.
Baab said that, since the state passed legislation creating the energy efficiency programs in 2008, ComEd has seen a 4 percent decrease in overall energy use on its grid.
"That's like taking two small towns off the grid ... like Rockford and Aurora," he said.
Baab highlighted many options and opportunities provided by the Smart Ideas program that can help businesses identify areas to save energy and noted some top saving tips, from replacing high-intensity discharge lights with fluorescent or LED lights to installing variable-speed drivers on heating and air conditioning systems. With some of the cost covered through incentives, businesses can see a payback within six months to two years, depending on the program and incentive.
Ed Kriz, program manager for energy efficiency at Nicor Gas, noted that the Nicor Gas Energy Efficiency Program, provides rebates and incentives to businesses to increase efficiency. Since 2011, the program has saved more than $12 million in cash incentives and rebates up to $500,000 to a single business, he said.
Kriz said that among local businesses saving money through the program were Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, which received a rebate of $60,682 for its efficiency measures, and Buona Beef, which received $1,800 in rebates.
"Saving energy is saving money, it's that simple," Kriz said.
Both Baab and Kriz said the path to savings starts with an energy assessment that the utilities provide for free. The utilities also form trade allies to install equipment or make the needed changes without disrupting the business, they said, and they also will handle the paperwork needed to take advantage of the incentives and rebates.
Rick Avila, a trade ally with Dominion Lighting, said the process "really streamlines the program for the customer."
Sponsoring partners for the Newsmakers' Forum were ComEd and Nicor. Marketing partners were GOA Regional Business Association, Building Owners & Managers Association, Management Association of Illinois, Schaumburg Business Association, Small Business Advocacy Council and Valley Industrial Association.