Q: I’m remodeling my business building. Are there programs to help me make it more energy efficient?

A: The average commercial building wastes 30 percent of its energy consumption, according to the US Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR® program. By saving energy, property owners can reduce overhead costs, make a building more comfortable for employees or tenants, and improve the performance and value of the asset. If you are making upgrades to your property, this is an excellent time to investigate solutions to help reduce your building’s energy use.

Programs in Oregon

Growing awareness of energy conservation has given rise to programs that help commercial building owners make facility improvements. Energy Trust of Oregon provides technical assistance and cash incentives for energy-efficiency improvements to customers of Pacific Power and NW Natural. Energy Trust cash incentives can reduce upfront costs and make energy-efficient upgrades more affordable. Because energy savings often pay for improvements in a few years, you can get a high return on your investment.

Consider Your Needs

Energy Trust addresses the needs of specific types of businesses, such as hotels, grocery stores and manufacturers. Whether you are looking to more efficiently manage your energy use in an existing space or design efficiency into your new construction project, Energy Trust can help you identify opportunities for energy savings. Whether your building uses electricity, gas, or you are interested in exploring renewable power resources, there is a program to help you.

Getting Started

If you’ve done nothing to your property to date, there are a few areas you might consider:

Energy-efficient equipment and building systems can save energy and increase net operating income. The proper HVAC system is fundamental to top building performance.

Lighting in commercial buildings can account for nearly 35 percent of electric use, which has a big impact on your bottom line. Lighting upgrades are the best—and often the easiest—first step in any energy-efficiency strategy and can pay back your investment through energy savings in as little as two years or less.

To get started with Energy Trust:

1. You must be a customer of either Pacific Power for electric saving incentives, and of NW Natural for gas incentives. Depending on the scope of your project, there may be additional eligibility requirements.

2. Think about what you want to accomplish at your property – reduce utility bills, improve lighting, reduce your carbon footprint or improve comfort for building occupants. If you’re not sure, you can call Energy Trust for help at 1.866.368.7878.

3. Find a local contractor experienced with Energy Trust programs and knowledgeable about what steps qualify for incentives. These contractors have been trained on the latest energy-efficiency and renewable energy services and products and can walk you through the process from start to finish.

Visit Energy Trust’s website at energytrust.org for information about free technical services and cash incentives, experienced Energy Trust trade ally contractors, and success stories of other building owners — large and small —that are reducing overhead costs and saving energy.

The SBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, the Oregon Business Development Department and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Arlene M. Soto has been the Director of the Southwestern Small Business Development Center since July 2007. To ask a question call 541-756-6445, e-mail asoto@socc.edu, or write 2455 Maple Leaf, North Bend, OR 97459. Additional help is available at the OSBDCN Web page www.bizcenter.org.