Post Written by Mark Huizenga, MCEF Leadership Council member & Board President
Energy efficiency is crucial to an “All of the Above” Michigan energy plan and it is one of the most effective ways to protect ratepayers, create jobs, and lessen our dependence on our natural resources. By utilizing energy-saving technology, we can help save money for our schools, hospitals, businesses and homes.
The holidays are a great opportunity to discuss ways that we can become more energy efficient in our everyday lives.
As the Mayor of Walker, MI, I have seen first-hand the immense differences switching to more energy-efficient technology makes to a city’s bottom line – meaning more money in my residents’ wallets and a more efficient use of local taxpayer dollars. The cheapest form of energy is the energy we don’t use. In fact, for every $1 spent on energy efficiency, $4 are saved, according to an economic impact study commissioned by the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum.
I have also seen how energy efficiency can save lives. My company, Key Green Solutions, provides a comprehensive energy, waste, water, food and carbon footprint calculator for hospitals in 22 states and one province. Key Green is rapidly being recognized as the premier sustainability management software suite for hospital systems across the United States. I am proud to help these hospitals effectively manage and decrease their energy use where it’s not needed. The money these hospitals save on their electric bills can then go towards hiring medical staff and buying life-saving medical equipment.
By optimizing how we use energy, we can build fewer power plants and move towards a cleaner energy future for generations to come. A cleaner environment will also mean fewer health problems such as asthma, cancer, heart disease and stroke that are caused by pollution related to coal power plants.
I urge individuals and companies alike to learn how they can make a difference while saving money on their electric bills. Use the holidays to think about ways that you can become more energy efficient; it could be as simple as turning off the lights in a room no one is using or replacing your appliances with more energy-efficient models. Check out this list for more energy-saving ideas and put more money back in your pocket:
· Use LED Christmas lights
· Use a timer to automatically turn off your lights
· If you’re buying your loved ones electronic Christmas gifts this season pick ones that have the energy star sticker
· Reduce the amount of time the oven has to be on by baking several dishes at the same time Turn off overhead lights when tree lights are on
· Use candles for decorative lighting
We can all agree that increasing energy efficiency and transitioning to cleaner forms of energy are good things – the underlying question is always how do you pay for it? Completing the smaller projects (i.e. the low hanging fruit) is generally a “no brainer”; the energy savings will pay for the extra cost within a year so it makes sense to do as a business or home owner. Some of the larger, more expensive projects can be harder to finance though – how do businesses justify spending $250,000 on a project that’s not going to pay off for 20 years? The standard options are taking out a loan or spending valuable cash on hand on these projects. However, many companies or individuals do not want to do this because of the opportunity cost of not investing in much needed equipment or other improvements. Fortunately independent groups have come up with solutions to that problem.
One of those solutions is a financing method called PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy). PACE has been in Michigan since 2012 and got its start in Ann Arbor. PACE has slowly been making its way to other Michigan municipalities & counties (current list of PACE locations here). If your municipality or county isn’t covered and you’re interested in implementing an energy efficiency or clean energy project contact your local elected officials to find out how you can get PACE where you live.
PACE provides ways for industrial, commercial, and even some residential properties to finance clean energy projects that cost over $250,000. Your PACE project can be 100% financed and repaid in a period up to twenty years. The main restriction to receiving this financing is that the project has to have a positive cash flow – in other words you have to save more in energy savings then the project costs you.
One of the advantages to using PACE as opposed to other financing options is if you decide to relocate your business or just sell the property the project was implemented on the next owner takes over the payments (i.e. the special assessment). Another advantage is that the organizations that help you implement PACE financing can help you find the best ways to implement your clean energy or energy efficiency.
If you’re looking for ways to make your business more energy efficient & cleaner, PACE may be an excellent route to use. Please reach out to MCEF if you have any questions about how PACE financing works – if we don’t have the answers we can connect you with people who do!