The Department of Energy (DOE) announced an award of $10 million for six projects to help small commercial buildings save money by saving energy.
These small commercial buildings are less than 50,000 square feet in size and include schools, churches, strip malls, restaurants and grocery stores. The six projects are aimed at developing user-friendly tools and resources that can be easily deployed at any small building. The DOE's $10 million investment across these six projects will be matched by at least $14 million in private sector funding.
“Energy efficiency represents a huge opportunity to help the businesses across the country save money by saving energy,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “As the President made clear in his climate action plan, energy efficiency is one of the clearest and most cost-effective opportunities to save businesses’ and communities’ money while curbing harmful emissions.”
In the U.S., the commercial building sector — of which more than 90 percent are small buildings — consumes about 20 percent of all U.S. energy. According to studies by the DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), small buildings have tremendous potential to save energy and improve their bottom lines.
For example, small fast food restaurants have the potential to cut energy use by up to 45 percent, and a 10 percent reduction in energy costs can improve grocery stores’ profit margin by 16 percent.
Still, small building owners and operators often lack the capital and resources available to large commercial building owners and operators. Hassle-free tools and practices that require little time, technical expertise and financial investment offer the best opportunity for small buildings to save money on their utility bills.
The projects announced are focused on addressing these challenges and include:
BlocPower ($1.9 million DOE investment) — Based in New York, BlocPower will develop a crowd-sourcing website to help market, finance and install energy efficiency retrofits for 1,500 small buildings including churches, schools, small businesses, and non-profits in low-income communities across the country. As part of an initial pilot program, the project will target small building retrofits in Boston, Massachusetts; Cleveland, Ohio; Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; and Baltimore, Maryland. BlocPower will also partner with companies in these areas to train local residents in small building retrofits.
EcoCity Partners ($322,978 DOE investment) — Headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, EcoCity Partners will lead a project to design and offer pre-packaged technology retrofit options by building type and size, business type, and climate zone to help small commercial building owners identify the best approach. The project will also help evaluate commercial property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing for small buildings and aims to conduct audits and retrofits at 50 buildings under a pilot program.
Ecology Action of Santa Cruz, Inc. ($2 million DOE investment) — Based in Santa Cruz, California, Ecology Action will leverage its existing network of contractors to use low-cost, high-impact tools to analyze and implement deep energy retrofits and financing options that are appropriate to small buildings. These efforts are expected to reach about 900 small buildings and support retrofits in at least 300 small buildings in northern California.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory ($2 million DOE investment) — Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is partnering with Architecture 2030 to develop a 2030 District program for small commercial office and retail buildings, including a technical toolkit that provides guidance and resources for building owners and operators. The guidance will also include financial modeling and best practices on service agreements and partnerships that can lower transaction costs for small commercial projects. At its initial stage the project will impact 25 to 40 buildings across the current fleet of 2030 Districts, including Seattle, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. By 2015, the project expects to support five to 10 new 2030 Districts nationwide.
National Trust for Historic Preservation ($2 million DOE investment) — The National Trust for Historic Preservation will partner with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to provide low-cost energy efficiency services to small businesses in California, Wisconsin, New York, and Washington State, leveraging the Trust’s National Main Street Center — a network of communities focused on preservation-based economic revitalization. The project will also analyze Green Button data from over 10,000 buildings in these states to unearth new opportunities for energy savings.
Southface Energy Institute ($1.9 million DOE investment) — Southface Energy Institute will help develop simple, affordable energy efficiency evaluation and upgrade tools that meet or exceed the Architecture 2030 Challenge targets, including a 50 percent energy improvement in new construction and a 20 percent energy improvement from upgrades to existing buildings.
The institute will also partner with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Georgia Tech to develop training materials to help local contractors to conduct energy audits for about 240 small buildings in the Atlanta, Georgia metro area.