Like many small business owners, being energy-efficient wasn’t at the top of the list for Orca Book Publishers owner Andrew Wooldridge.
“There’s always enough to do without thinking about what you could be doing,” Wooldridge said.
But after growing pressure from his staff to be more environmentally-aware, he set up an energy assessment with Matt Greeno, a business energy advisor with City Green, a non-profit group focused on energy efficiency.
The main problem Greeno pointed out was the outdated fluorescent lights in Orca’s two-floor warehouse, which Wooldridge hadn’t worried about because they weren’t turned on all the time.
But Wooldridge’s not intimidated by the prospect of having to replace them.
“I see a real savings for us,” he said.
The free assessments are part of the new LiveSmart B.C small business program, a three-year initative that aims to get businesses to be more energy-efficient.
Capital region business owners with annual hydro bills under $50,000 are eligible to receive a visit from a business energy advisor, who assesses the building’s lighting, heating, hot water and ventilation systems and provides the owners with suggestions on how to save energy and money, as well as make their space more attractive.
The advisors also help owners access the other components of the program, like rebates on energy-saving upgrades and product installation.
City Green is just one of the companies providing the energy consultations.
Greeno agrees with Wooldridge that replacing old fluorescents isn’t a priority for most local businesses.
Many people are only renting their space, and may be part of a strata or multi-lease deal, so the financial responsibility for the energy upgrades often falls on the owner, he said.
But there’s an incentive for both parties.
”The renter wants to make it look better and the owner wants to save money,” he said.
“Their interest is related to the bottom line. They’re concerned about how much they’re spending.”
The program aims to save more than $7 million a year in utility costs, according to Sandra Steilo, communications officer with the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines.
It was developed with input from local businesses, the B.C Restaurant and Food Association and Shelfspace, a community group that represents retailers.
Greeno believes before the small business program, there weren’t many incentives available to persuade the commercial sector to put in retrofits.
Most initiatives focused on homeowners, he said.
The CRD recently ran a similar pilot project called Green Start that offered free assessments for businesses, which City Green was also part of, but the organization’s executive director Peter Sundbert said this initiative is different because it focuses specifically on conserving energy, while Green Start also offered advice on water and waste.
It’s also open to any business that wants to participate, while only 20 were successful applicants to the CRD program.
“In both programs we’re the feet on the street, but with Green Start there was an application process, and with LiveSmart we’re encouraging all businesses to phone us,” he said.