Business Environmental Program Reaches Out to Help Local Businesses Become More Energy Efficient

by Sam Males, State Director for the Nevada Small Business Development Center, University of Nevada, Reno

We accomplish so much more when we forge partnerships in our communities, and that philosophy is an integral piece of our sustainability plan at the University of Nevada, Reno.

As one of the charter signatories to the ACUPCC, we have set a goal to integrate sustainable practices into everything that we do – from the way we construct our buildings, to our energy usage, to our curriculum, to our outreach mission as a land-grant institution. As part of these outreach efforts, our Nevada Small Business Development Center is offering energy-efficiency assistance to small businesses and targeted industries such as retail, food service, grocers and offices, through its Business Environmental Program.

The Center was one of just four small business development centers in the country awarded funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration last year for projects offering energy-efficiency assistance to small businesses. The award provides $125,000 a year for three years for the program.

To stretch these dollars the furthest, we have partnered with NV Energy, Nevada’s major energy provider, and KEMA Services Inc., an energy-management consulting firm, to help provide resources, training and direct assistance to businesses identifying energy-efficiency opportunities. The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have also provided funding for the Center’s Business Environmental Program.

The Center promotes understanding of business opportunities for energy efficiency through outreach activities, including free workshops, web-based information resources and telephone support. The workshops in particular help provide practical background and information on focused methodologies for evaluating and realizing operational cost and energy use savings for businesses. Specific high-return energy-efficiency measures are highlighted, as well as available tax credits, tax incentives and cash incentives available from NV Energy.

A key component of the Business Energy Efficiency program involves direct on-site evaluation of client-specific energy-efficiency opportunities. This one-on-one support is key to our success in helping business owners and managers understand and act on their best available energy-efficiency opportunities. As an example, the Center provided on-site support to a small office building in the Carson City area, saving them over $1,100 per year in operating costs. And, this is merely the beginning of work with this particular client. Program efforts may also include support with renewable energy technology; green building and construction; and development and commercialization of clean-technology products, goods and services. Thus, the program provides comprehensive support to help business operations cut both operating costs and energy use.

The Business Environmental Program has provided technical assistance to Nevada business and government operations since the late 1980s. In partnership and with funding from the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and U.S. EPA, the program has helped firms improve their environmental performance by using less hazardous materials and improving process efficiencies to reduce waste and emissions.  The program expanded to begin offering energy-efficiency assistance and training in conjunction with NV Energy in 2002. Other program partners have included the Nevada State Office of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy and Wells Fargo Bank Nevada.

The Center’s Business Environmental Program is just one way the University of Nevada, Reno is seeking to help businesses in the State and region enhance their profitability and preserve our natural resources for the future. By helping businesses increase their energy efficiency, we achieve both of these goals.