Businesswoman Julie Senior says making her business energy efficient only took one call.
Senior, who operates the Fisherman’s Picnic General Store in Lunenburg, said she contacted Efficiency Nova Scotia shortly after buying the business in 2017.
“I gave them a call and they were extremely helpful,” she said.
With that call, Senior joined the other 9,500 small business owners across the province who have tapped into Efficiency Nova Scotia’s Small Business Energy Solutions (SBES) since 2011.
Efficiency Nova Scotia — Canada’s first energy efficient utility — helps residential and business clients implement sustainable energy practices.
Jon Grace, Efficiency Nova Scotia’s Small Business Program Manager, said the organization provides small businesses like Senior’s with options.
“Enrolling in energy efficiency programs has a number of benefits that extend beyond just dollar savings, although the savings can be pretty significant too,” he said.
Through their programs, said Grace, small businesses can reduce maintenance issues and costs, increase working conditions and cut their carbon footprint.
Simply put — energy efficiency is good for business.
“Not only are they reducing their operating costs and adding to their bottom line, but they are demonstrating their commitment to the environment and making their business a nicer place for both employees and customers,” said Grace.
“Our small business customers definitely have a competitive advantage.”
And for small businesses unsure if Efficiency Nova Scotia’s programs are right for them, Grace noted the organization offers, dependent on some criteria, a free energy assessment to help find clients’ needs.
Senior explained that as a grocer dealing with food products, she was recommended an energy efficient fridge and freezer and also a heat pump.
Once her appliances and heat pump had been purchased and installed, the contractor also dropped off her rebate paperwork.
Senior said she was impressed by the ease of the whole process.
“It was less than a month and you had the rebate,” she said.
Grace said many have misconceptions about applying for energy efficiency programs, especially concerning the rebate process.
“In reality, feedback from customers is that the process is quick, our team is helpful and that there was way less paperwork than expected,” he said.
The free energy assessment is a key piece in getting businesses to realize the environmental and monetary impact of becoming energy efficient.
The assessment provides the small businesses the tools and information they need to actively manage their own energy consumption and although he couldn’t provide the percentage of businesses that pursue the program following the assessment, Grace said Efficiency Nova Scotia’s programs are having an impact.
To date, energy efficiency programs in Nova Scotia have helped to avoid nearly one million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually or one tonne for every Nova Scotian.
“We know that Nova Scotians want to not just save money on their energy bills but also want to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Grace.
When asked about the availability of programs and their effects, Energy and Mines Minister Derek Mombourquette praised the province’s energy rebates.
“Organizations like Efficiency Nova Scotia and Clean Foundation are doing a remarkable job of delivering these programs,” he wrote via email.
“As a result of efficiency efforts, including those by small business, Nova Scotians are now saving more than $180 million each year on their electricity bills.”Mombourquette added that Nova Scotians are some of the best in the country at changing their energy habits.
But who is eligible to tap into the province’s programs?
Grace said small businesses whose monthly utility bill is less than $3,800 may qualify for the program. This may include the free energy assessment, rebates up to 60 per cent and 24 months of interest-free financing.
From her experiences, Senior said she is surprised more business owners aren’t exploring energy upgrades.
“For you to go and spend $5,000 or $6,000 on a heat pump and for someone to turn around and give you money back on it — it’s absolutely amazing,” she said.
“I really think more people should be looking into it.”
Senior said she runs her store’s appliances on a continual basis and had budgeted around $600 on electricity.
But with the energy efficient fridge and freezer, she said her bill has been cut in half.
“I don’t think I’ve ever paid over $250 a month and that’s with running the fridges, the freezers, the lights full time,” she said. “It’s definitely a lot less than we expected.”
Grace noted an increase in applicants in the last three years, but hopes more small businesses will make the switch from old, wasteful technologies.
“Every kilowatt hour saved by Nova Scotians translates into greenhouse gas savings by needing to generate less power,” he said.
In 2018 alone, the small business program helped local businesses save 9.5 gigawatt hours.
Senior said the incentive from a business owner’s perspective is twofold: It is beneficial to both the environment and your wallet.
“The money that you’re going to save (through the program) is going to pay for itself,” she said.
The trickle-down impact is significant, too.
In addition to the 9,500 businesses who have used the small business program, Grace pointed out that the organization has provided efficiency training and support to over 200 businesses through their Efficiency Trade Network.
Efficiency Trade Network members are designated professionals who can help with energy improvements, whether they are electricians or contractors.
Grace added Efficiency Nova Scotia also administers the mercury collection program funded by Nova Scotia Power.
In the end, he said the organization’s programs are out to find energy solutions which provide local businesses with a sustainable advantage.
“We help businesses of all sizes achieve savings in their day-to-day operations,” Grace said.
And the result of that approach is an annual carbon dioxide reduction of 1,000,000 tonnes.
Hopefully, that number continues to rise.