As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Commercial Buildings Integration program’s initiative to scale-up replicable, energy-efficient solutions for small and medium office buildings, apartments, stores, restaurants, and businesses, the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) and the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) are leading a three-year energy efficiency initiative together with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.
The initiative aims to reach more than 400 small businesses that own or rent property using a chamber-led, business-to-business model successfully piloted in Cleveland, Ohio, by COSE and IMT’s Cleveland Energy Aligned Leasing Program. The program engaged over 60 local building owners and small business tenants representing more than 7 million square feet of space to help them pursue efficiency through landlord-tenant collaboration.
It’s important that small business landlords and tenants are brought together around efficiency, as the small- and medium-sized buildings that many of them occupy make up 90 percent of the United States commercial building inventory and account for more than 40 percent of the energy used in the commercial sector. Therefore, the potential impact of reaching a fraction of this sector is significant. COSE and IMT will work with their chamber partners in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, North Carolina, and Traverse City, Michigan, to unlock this potential to target small business landlords and tenants occupying small- and medium-sized buildings in order to drive the uptake of energy efficiency through energy assessments, implementation of energy conservation measures, and green leasing practices.
“Traditionally, energy efficiency is left ‘invisible’ to small businesses and they just view it as any other operating expense—so they lose sight of the many benefits that it could deliver to their bottom line. Our role is to help landlords and tenants better understand how to treat energy efficiency as a resource, which can be cost effective and beneficial,” said Nicole Stika, Vice President, Energy Services at the Greater Cleveland Partnership/Council of Smaller Enterprises.
“The goal is to help them explore what’s under the hood, increase their awareness of the need and the opportunity and be their trusted energy manager when that staff person often doesn’t exist in a small business. We are motivating cash flow positive investment and accelerating the adoption of energy efficiency through smart building solutions.”
With innovative chambers of commerce such as Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Traverse City providing strong conduits to small businesses, they have a unique ability to arm both owners and tenants with the knowledge to save money and cut utility expenses with smart energy efficiency strategies for their spaces. COSE and IMT will offer their expertise to small business chamber members through energy efficiency education, technical assistance and financial resources to tap into their savings potential.
“Small businesses are usually not part of traditional trade associations that promote energy efficiency, and reaching these businesses requires finding a trusted resource that they do participate in, such as chambers of commerce and pairing educational resources and turnkey services that are a win-win for a business’s bottom line and the environment,” said Alexandra Harry, Senior Program Associate at IMT. “IMT and COSE’s deep expertise in collaborative and sustainable solutions such as green leasing, energy management, audits, and more will open the door to savings in a sector that has traditionally been difficult to reach.”
Over the course of the project, IMT, COSE, and its partner chambers will aim to solidify an energy efficiency model that is applicable to any chamber to implement and maintain. The project will work in Greater Cleveland in addition to Greater Traverse City, Michigan, Greater Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and other markets nationwide. IMT and COSE will collaborate with each local chamber to identify energy leaders from the real estate community, convene workshops with real estate stakeholders, engage local contractors, and connect multiple energy service options to the local community. The project will have national impact as the organizations aim to identify 5-10 additional chambers for project participation in years two and beyond.
“The small/medium commercial sector and homebuilding industry are critical to the American economy, but under-resourced when it comes to energy efficiency,” said Kathleen Hogan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency in a statement. “These efficiency solutions will allow us to build better, healthier homes and significantly improve our nation’s existing building stock, cutting energy bills for American consumers and businesses.”