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Overcoming the Challenges to Small Business Energy Efficiency

Research shows that it is hard to improve the efficiency of America’s small businesses. They are among the hardest utility customers to address with energy efficiency programs. Lime Energy has figured out how to overcome these barriers by offering simple assessments, providing financing options, and making small business our sole focus.

In an article at Greentech Media, Greg Miller outlined the challenges that prevent energy efficiency investment in small businesses. Miller, a sustainability coordinator at Georgetown University, wrote that the barriers faced by both small business owners and by energy service companies (ESCOs) have limited opportunities to capitalize on potential energy savings amounting to greater than $30 billion a year. He is right. The barriers to entry in the small business market have limited investment in this important customer segment. Despite these hurdles, Lime Energy has delivered energy savings to small business customers year after year. Lime Energy offers energy efficiency solutions specifically designed to overcome the unique challenges faced by these overlooked customers. By doing this, we have unlocked new ways for small businesses to capitalize on available energy savings.

The first burden described by Greg Miller is resources – “expertise, time, or capital.” As Miller writes, “although energy use can account for up to 20 percent of the expenditures of a small business, many business owners do not have the expertise themselves or within their staff to identify and manage energy savings projects.” Knowledge, time, and money are real challenges but Lime Energy is unfazed by limited resources.

For the small business owner with limited expertise or time, Lime Energy’s simple energy assessment process simplifies the opportunity. Our expert energy advisors describe each project in clear language. They break down the energy and financial savings, explaining exactly how each small business can benefit. All of this is done at the convenience of the business owner or manager without disrupting operating hours. No research is necessary to maximize energy savings.

If a business owner lacks the capital to invest in efficient improvements, Lime Energy can help with that too. Not only do we provide utility incentives that can subsidize seventy percent or more of a project’s cost, but we also offer financing to make payment easier. By offering low-interest financing for twelve months of more, Lime Energy extends project payback. When paying in installments, many business owners find themselves cash-flow-positive from day one. They save more on their energy bills than they are paying for their new fixtures.

In his article, Miller laments the long applications and rebate processes for many utility programs. Lime Energy eliminates this time consuming red tape. Our audits are quick and free. After an audit is complete, installation begins in weeks. This streamlined process removes the headaches. Small businesses get exactly what they need – energy savings without the hassle.

Small businesses aren’t the only companies facing obstacles in this energy efficiency market. As Miller notes, energy service companies like Lime Energy have also struggled to access small business customers. ESCOs face challenges such as profitability and complexity that constrict their ability to capitalize on the captive small business market. Lime Energy has overcome these barriers too.

To avoid problems of profitability and complexity, Lime Energy has specialized. Where other companies have struggled to adapt their practices to small commercial customers, Lime Energy has chosen to focus solely on the smallest businesses. Small businesses are the core of our business model. By homing in on small businesses, we have become experts on their needs. Our entire company has adapted to help small businesses. To do so, we have streamlined our efficiency offerings to find profit and simplicity in market that others find risky and scary. This benefits us (because we generate revenue) but it especially benefits the small businesses we serve (because their needs are our sole focus).

Miller concludes his piece with an optimistic note. He argues that “despite all of the barriers, there are still opportunities to unlock the energy efficiency of small businesses.” We agree. Small businesses remain a huge part of the economy. They are responsible for more than 99 percent of all businesses, 48 percent of all employment, and 60 percent of job growth since 2009. This is a customer segment ripe with energy efficiency opportunity. Traditional energy efficiency programs have struggled to access small businesses. Lime Energy has devised efficiency offerings to overcome those obstacles. With simple energy assessments, financing options, and a specialized focus on small commercial customers, Lime Energy has provided energy efficiency solutions to more than 125,000 small businesses across the United States.

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