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Business Energy Advisors offer energy efficiency expertise to Cambie Village

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Business Energy Advisors guide businesses through energy-efficient upgrades

Question: What three things are often in short supply for small and medium-sized businesses?
Answer: Time, extra people-power, and energy-efficient lighting.

Under the province's LiveSmart BC: Small Business Program, Business Energy Advisors (BEAs) can help with all three. For businesses that spend less than $200,000 annually on energy expenses, BEAs offer a free energy assessment service. In addition, they follow up with expertise and assistance for businesses wanting to make energy-efficient upgrades.

Cambie Village businesses cash in on free energy assessments

When leaders of Vancouver's Cambie Village Business Association (CVBA) learned about the program, they saw its potential for helping their members.

"As a board, we were talking about ways [the CVBA] could take the next steps to being even greener," says executive director Rania Hatz. "BC Hydro put us in touch with the Business Energy Advisor program, and we took it out to our members."

Last fall, the CVBA board sent a letter to the 175 association members who met the eligibility requirements, letting them know about the program and its BEA service, informing them that an assessment would only take a few minutes and would show where their energy resources were going. The board was surprised by the response.

"We were hoping for a dozen or so businesses to sign up in the first round," says Hatz. "Off the bat we had 40 businesses jump on board."

Even small energy upgrades can make a big difference

Over the course of a few months last winter, a total of 70 CVBA businesses had energy assessments, and about one-fifth of those businesses have completed energy-efficiency projects.

"Some did a full conversion of everything," says Hatz. "Others took a look at the smaller things they could do." Hatz says the catch for many of the businesses is that they are stuck in short-term leases. "If the return on investment is a couple of years, but they can't get a two or three year lease, then they don't want to invest."

The CVBA is now launching a second push to encourage participating businesses to go forward with energy efficiency projects. Hatz says, "We are reminding businesses that they don't need to do a full conversion to see benefits. There are often smaller changes, such as changing lighting in a display case, that have a short payback time."

Rania Hatz, Cambie Village Business Association
Rania Hatz, Cambie Village Business Association

Participants access incentives, cost savings, expertise, and more

Hatz says that in addition to reducing energy costs, two other factors motivated businesses to follow through with energy-efficiency conversions. First, the incentives available from BC Hydro's Product Incentive Program are important, as they help reduce up-front costs. Second, the BEAs help businesses complete the incentive program application.

BEAs help in other ways too. They assess the most effective upgrades to reduce costs and improve efficiency, help find contractors, and even oversee the installation of the new equipment.

BIAs can host BEAs for their memberships

For the BEAs and local businesses, having a business association act as champions translated into energy savings, with a higher percentage of the Cambie Village businesses going on to do energy-efficiency conversions than the usual ratio.

Hatz encourages other Business Improvement Associations (BIAs) to serve as champions for the LiveSmart BC Small Business Program. "It's an excellent program," she says. "Most business owners think saving energy is a matter of switching the lights off at night. They don't realize what other things they could do and that there are incentives available to help."

The LiveSmart BC: Small Business Program program runs until March 31, 2014.

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