4 energy-efficiency gifts for a greener holiday season

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Energy-efficiency solutions are at the top of Santa’s list.


  • Energy-efficiency solutions are hot items this holiday season, but high inflation and interest rates are making them harder to finance.
  • LED lighting, solar systems, batteries, and generators help businesses capture energy savings, reducing repayment windows.
  • EnPowered’s partner network and Payments platform make finding and funding energy-efficiency solutions stress-free.

When it comes to giving thoughtful holiday gifts, less is often more. This is especially true when we’re talking about electricity costs. From lower bills to smaller carbon footprints, electricity savings are on everyone’s wish list.

This could be a difficult year to give that gift. Low fuel supplies, and unpredictable wintry weather could lead to power shortages. Shortages raise electricity prices because expensive “peaker plants” have to pick up the slack, many of which are coal-powered.

And no one wants to deal with coal, especially during the holidays.

Energy-efficiency solutions mitigate the impact of high costs and outages, but inflation, and rising interest rates are making them more expensive to finance.

Companies are also busy protecting their capital instead of starting new projects. Fortunately, energy-efficiency solutions like LED lighting, solar systems, batteries, and generators help companies capture substantial savings and pay for themselves over time.

Determining which solution (or combination of solutions) provides the greatest savings for your business goes a long way towards overcoming internal hesitancy and turning projects into a reality.

So let’s look at the savings potential of four energy-efficiency solutions: LEDs, solar, batteries, and generators. Which will make your wishlist?

Commercial lighting: LED it snow

Lighting plays an important role during the holidays, either as a festive decoration or to brighten shorter days. Upgrading lighting systems is one of easiest (and most impactful) ways businesses can capture savings.

For instance, if the entire U.S. horticultural industry switched to LEDs it would save $350 million each year.

LEDs use 80 percent less electricity than high-intensity discharge (HID) and fluorescent lighting. These savings allow LED projects to pay for themselves in 12-16 months, or even sooner.

Commercial and industrial (C&I) businesses ranging from hospitality to manufacturing can benefit from LED upgrades. For example, Best Western Plus in Thunder Bay, now saves $12,800 a year thanks to its LED lighting retrofit.

Similarly, Alcon—a leading vision care business—replaced 550 fluorescent high bay lights with just 300 LED lights, capturing over $66,000 in annual savings from lower energy and maintenance costs.

LEDs are also programmable, empowering companies to boost savings by integrating LEDs with building management systems (BMS). Powering your LED systems with renewable energy (such as on-site rooftop solar) helps capture even higher savings.

Rein in costs with solar panels (but leave room for reindeer)

Installing solar panels lets companies reduce their reliance on the grid and lower their electricity bill. In some jurisdictions, businesses can even gain revenue by selling excess power back to the grid.

Solar systems prices have decreased drastically over the past decade. A 200 kilowatt (kW) commercial rooftop system cost $5.57 per watt in 2010 but only $1.72 per watt by 2020.

Solar projects often become cash-flow positive in just five years. The Sonoma Community Centre offset 70 percent of their utility bills with a 87 kW rooftop system. This generates annual savings of over $26,000, returning their investment within six years. Every subsequent year of savings goes straight into pocket.

Similarly, Avalon Natural Products now meets 100 percent of its energy needs from rooftop solar thanks to a 124 kW system on its 55,000 square foot distribution center. The company now enjoys over $35,000 in savings each year.

Solar is scalable and affordable. And when combined with on-site energy storage it can help avoid price spikes and costly grid outages.

Batteries actually included

Battery storage is easily scalable, and comes in different forms, be it stationary lithium-ion battery banks, or electric vehicles connected to a building.

On-site energy storage also compensates for the intermittency of renewables (like rooftop solar) and lets companies operate independent of the grid for longer.

A large commercial building in California installed a 109 kilowatt hour (kWh) battery system to complement its existing rooftop solar solution, providing more stability from the latter and essentially taking the building off-grid.

The storage system cost $616,000 but generates an impressive $152,000 in annual savings, resulting in a payback period of only four years.

Another benefit of battery systems is their ability to counter peak pricing. Batteries are a type of non-invasive demand response. This means they can be charged when energy is cheap (i.e. at night or on weekends), and leveraged during peak hours to reduce demand on the grid.

Trent University in Ontario worked with an energy storage provider to acquire a 2.5 megawatt/5 megawatt hour (MWh) solution. By storing off-peak energy, the battery contributes to the province’s demand response program, the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI).

As a result, Trent University reduced its Global Adjustment (GA) costs. Since GA makes up a large portion of electricity costs in Ontario, the university now reaps annual savings of over $1 million.

Batteries are effective at avoiding peak prices and bridging gaps in electricity supply. That said, sometimes companies need more help keeping the lights on.

Generate good vibes and electricity this winter 

Generators are another on-site, behind-the-meter energy solution that can help companies avoid losses from outages. Natural gas also emits no particulates, and 24 percent less carbon dioxide (CO2) than diesel.

Gas generators reduce reliance on more carbon-intensive grid generation, such as coal. Generators can also be leveraged to support the grid and earn revenue from coincident peak programs.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), “using backup generators for grid services can significantly offset the costs of owning and maintaining power backup systems, and can even create positive economic value.”

For Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) customers, more than 60 percent of total life-cycle costs of a generator can be recovered by participating in grid services alone.

For example, a supermarket in Houston, Texas using a 500 kW natural gas generator can earn over $12,000 annually by participating in In Texas’ Emergency Response Service.

“Using backup generators for grid services can significantly offset the costs of owning and maintaining power backup systems, and can even create positive economic value.”

Natural gas generators are more resilient than diesel ones because they do not require on-site fuel storage. Using existing underground gas lines reduces maintenance and eliminates refueling periods.

“During Superstorm Sandy, New York City experienced power outages for as long as 15 days. Natural gas generator owners ran with no issues, while diesel clients quickly ran out of fuel, or the fuel was unreliable and they shut down and had no power,” explains Keenan Nolan, sales engineer at Huntington Power.

Any delay in restarting operations after an outage compounds losses for businesses. Generators ensure resilience in the face of grid instability, especially when coupled with other behind-the-meter solutions like rooftop solar and batteries.

How EnPowered can be your holiday helper

Holiday shopping is always stressful. Scouring shops for this year’s hot items is a time sink. Making sure that you’ve gotten the right thing (and that it won’t break the budget) is tricky.

EnPowered helps companies quickly find and connect with solution providers that meet their needs. Leveraging our partner network empowers you to turn your energy-efficiency projects into reality.

And once you’ve found the perfect energy gift, EnPowered Payments removes any funding-related stress. With no upfront costs and minimal risk, Payments empowers you to realize your energy-efficiency goals all while staying cash-flow positive.

Ready to learn more? Reach out today to discover how EnPowered will help you keep your energy bills off the naughty list.

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Ted Leonard

VP Market Operations

Ted leads a team of diverse energy experts that understand the complexities of various energy markets and supports the creation, sale, and operation of simple customer-savings focused solutions. Before EnPowered, Ted was COO/CFO at an energy services business, CFO/COO at an energy storage developer, and held progressively senior roles at Ontario’s IESO including CFO and VP Markets overseeing Ontario’s electricity market design developments. He is a CPA, CA with a BCom from Laurentian University, a graduate of Queen’s University Executive Program, and a proud native of Sudbury, Ontario.