There is nothing small about the impact that small commercial buildings have on energy use in the United States. In fact, the 4.6 million small buildings across the nation consume 44% of the overall energy use in buildings, presenting an enormous opportunity to cut costs, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this potential, small building owners and operators face unique challenges that have historically impeded the adoption of widespread energy efficiency solutions. A new report developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examines these barriers and suggests a path forward to support cost-effective energy savings for the small buildings and small portfolios sector, which typically has limited resources to pursue energy efficiency solutions.
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Small buildings have been left behind in the energy efficiency marketplace because financial and technical resources have flowed to larger commercial buildings (PGL 2013). DOE’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) works with the commercial building industry to accelerate the uptake of energy efficiency technologies and techniques in existing and new commercial buildings (DOE 2013). BTO recognizes the SBSP sector’s potential for significant energy savings and the need for investments in resources that are tailored to this sector’s unique needs. The industry research and recommendations described in this report identify potential approaches and strategic priorities that BTO could explore over the next 3–5 years that will support the implementation of high-potential energy efficiency opportunities for this important sector.
This document lists a set of resources that can help small business owners make informed decisions about their energy use and identify opportunities for long-term financial savings from energy efficiency improvements. These resources include case studies, energy savings and investment calculators, technical guides and information on state and federal incentives programs.
Argonne’s Energy Efficiency Decision Support Calculator is a simple tool that small business owners can use to quickly analyze the high-level economic impact of investments in energy efficient products, retrofits or capital improvements. This tool requires minimal input data and is accessible to anyone, regardless of their experience with energy issues. It is intended to complement many of the more involved, technology specific calculators that are referenced in Argonne’s “Resources for Informed Small Business Energy Efficiency Decision Making.”
NorthBay VacaValley Hospital completed lighting retrofits to their 150,000 square foot parking lot and its 225 parking spaces. They did so with help from The California Lighting Technology Center (CLTC) at the University of California, Davis. The project has achieved 65% savings and received a 2014 Lighting Energy Efficiency in Parking (LEEP) Campaign’s award for best use of lighting controls. In addition, the retrofits improved lighting maintenance operations and end-user satisfaction.
The lighting retrofit included replacing roughly 50 induction luminaires with new LED fixtures with embedded lighting controls.
The new LED fixtures were coupled with various kinds of lighting control systems, including a radio frequency (RF) connectivity control system that was installed in dedicated zones with passive- infrared (PIR) and long-range microwave sensors to achieve energy savings. An “ultra-smart” lighting control network was also put in place, giving facility managers the ability to adjust lighting schedules, light levels and time-out settings, monitor the system’s energy use, and receive automated alerts when luminaires require maintenance.
The small buildings and small portfolios (SBSP) sector face a number of barriers that inhibit SBSP owners from adopting energy efficiency solutions. This pilot project focused on overcoming two of the largest barriers to financing energy efficiency in small buildings: disproportionately high transaction costs and unknown or unacceptable risk. Solutions to these barriers can often be at odds, because inexpensive turnkey solutions are often not sufficiently tailored to the unique circumstances of each building, reducing confidence that the expected energy savings will be achieved. To address these barriers, NREL worked with two innovative, forward-thinking lead partners, Michigan Saves and Energi, to develop technical solutions that provide a quick and easy process to encourage energy efficiency investments while managing risk.
The pilot project was broken into two stages: the first stage focused on reducing transaction costs, and the second stage focused on reducing performance risk. In the first stage, NREL worked with the non-profit organization, Michigan Saves, to analyze the effects of 8 energy efficiency measures (EEMs) on 81 different baseline small office building models in Holland, Michigan (climate zone 5A). The results of this analysis (totaling over 30,000 cases) are summarized in a simple spreadsheet tool that enables users to easily sort through the results and find appropriate small office EEM packages that meet a particular energy savings threshold and are likely to be cost-effective.
Dollars saved through energy efficiency can directly impact your bottom line. Whether you are planning for a major renovation or upgrading individual pieces of building equipment, these improvements can help reduce operating costs, save on utility bills, and boost profits. This fact sheet provides a guide for small businesses to find the resources to increase the energy efficiency of their buildings.
The energy efficiency community has worked hard to engage lenders and consumers in what is estimated by the Rockefeller Foundation and Deutsche Bank to be a $279 billion market for energy efficiency investment. Great advances have been made in the federal and public sector’s program development arena, yet private sector transaction volume remains frustratingly low. In an effort to understand nuanced obstacles to market participation, ACEEE and Energi Insurance Services convened a group of small to mid-size lenders to discuss opportunities for increasing both lender and consumer participation in the energy efficiency space. Lender representation spanned state and local commercial banks, community banks, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), credit unions, and “green” lenders. This paper presents the obstacles identified in the convening and offers recommendations to the energy efficiency community to foster growth in the market for energy efficiency financing.
Small commercial buildings – those smaller than 50,000 square feet – offer substantial and immediate energy efficiency opportunities and cost savings. The Small Buildings and Small Portfolios (SBSP) sector contains 95 percent of all commercial buildings by number and represents 47 percent of the energy consumption in all non-mall commercial buildings. However this building stock has received little attention in the growing energy efficiency marketplace compared to larger and institutionally owned counterparts, in part because of the market’s vast scale, physical diversity, and the disparate interests of its stakeholders.
While acknowledging these challenges, this study estimates that profitable investments in energy conservation can generate $30 billion in annual energy cost savings, improving the financial performance of millions of small businesses throughout the United States.
This guide primarily applies to facility managers and energy managers of large existing office buildings larger than 100,000 square feet, but also includes considerations for small and medium office buildings. By presenting general project planning guidance as well as financial payback metrics for the most common energy efficiency measures, this guide provides a practical roadmap for effectively planning and implementing performance improvements for existing buildings.