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Small business efficiency program offers free advice, improved rebates

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Nina Winham
For bchydro.com

If you hear "energy efficiency" and groan, this story is for you. Many small businesses know they could be saving money with simple energy retrofits, but they're not sure what to do or where to start. And there's never enough time to figure it out.

That's where a new provincial government program aims to help. It's called the LiveSmart BC: Small Business Program, a $15 million, three-year initiative to get small businesses over the energy efficiency hump.

"Through talking with small business, we've recognized that there are barriers to accessing many of the existing energy efficiency incentives," says Joy Beauchamp, an Energy Efficiency Program Coordinator for the B.C. Ministry of Energy. "Often, the barrier is that it's hard to find out what needs to be done, to make the calls and access existing incentive programs. We're trying to remove those barriers as much as possible."

Key to the program will be Business Energy Advisors, available to companies that spend less than $50,000 on electricity per year.

"Their role is really to go in and help usher the business through the process, to show them the different incentives and opportunities that are available for their unique business," says Beauchamp.

Business Energy Advisors are being recruited now and will become available to businesses over the next few months. (You can be placed on a waiting list now.)

Depending on a company's electricity usage and location, the program also offers:

  • Direct installation: 100% of the cost of replacing and installing select energy-efficient equipment such as lighting, LED exit signs, occupancy sensors and pre-rinse spray valves (for commercial kitchens).
  • Enhanced product incentives: an additional 10% on top of BC Hydro's existing incentives from the Product Incentive Program.
  • LiveSmart Champion: a competition to provide funding for businesses with innovative ways to conserve energy.

Beauchamp agrees this is an excellent energy efficiency opportunity for small businesses. "There are a lot of energy efficiency programs out there, but they're not brought together in one place," she says. "We're trying to provide one entry point."

"Small businesses that improve their energy efficiency will get paybacks they'll keep seeing over time," she says. And they help take a leadership role – which can pay off in other ways too.

"It's a great thing to tell your customers that you're concerned about the environment and you're making changes to make your business more sustainable. If people see energy efficiency in their local grocery store and local retail stores, it makes it more real. It maybe gives them that extra push to do things in their own lives as well."

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Nina Winham is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and regular contributor to bchydro.com and the Power of Business eNewsletter.