Renewable Energy Options for Small Businesses

Most small businesses operate on slim margins and every dollar counts. If you can reduce operating costs and utility bills by using renewable energy, you can increase your business’ bottom line, as well as reduce your carbon footprint.

While there are plenty of good reasons to focus on energy efficiency, pursuing renewable energy as a small business might feel overwhelming. However, moving forward with environmentally friendly energy usage doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are three simple actions your small business can take toward more sustainable energy options.

Join Forces with Others

Working together with other like-minded individuals almost always simplifies the process of getting results. Consider joining a CCA (Community Choice Aggregation) or other community solar structure. Through groups like these, various energy customers can join forces to increase their buying power and obtain greater control over their energy mix.

CCAs offer an alternative to purchasing energy through large, investor-owned power companies. For instance, Marin County, Calif., launched Marin Energy, California’s first CCA program, in 2010. The CCA offers energy that is 50 percent to 100 percent renewable at competitive prices and now serves more than 250,000 residential and commercial power customers in Marin County and surrounding areas.

If a CCA is not available in your area, you may have access to an electrical cooperative with a community solar program. With these programs, a utility co-op develops a solar array, and members can either purchase the solar power or lease a solar panel.   

Buy Local

Every time you order supplies or raw materials from a faraway vendor or supplier, you’re paying for the transportation to get the supplies to your location. You’re also contributing to the carbon emissions of the trucks used to bring those supplies to you.

To reduce your carbon footprint, look for opportunities to purchase goods and supplies from local vendors. Not only might you save money on the transportation and delivery costs, but you’ll also be supporting your local economy and workforce.

If you’re not sure where to find local suppliers, ask other business owners if they are aware of nearby options for purchasing the items you need. Contact the local Chamber of Commerce or other business organizations for help locating the right vendors. Even if you can’t find the items you need in your immediate town, there may be suppliers in your state or region that can meet your needs.

Check Your Equipment

Finally, think about installing energy-saving equipment in your business location, such as geothermal and ground source heat pumps. These items use low-level heat that is naturally contained in the ground to provide both heating and cooling. While they usually cost at least a few thousand dollars on the front end, these ground source heat pumps can save your business significantly on energy prices throughout their lifetime. Geothermal heat pumps can provide 40 percent to more than 60 percent greater energy efficiency than their regular air-source counterparts, according to Energy Star rankings.

If installing new energy-saving equipment isn’t an option, make sure you’re performing regular maintenance on the heating and cooling units you already have. Change or clean air filters regularly, and adjust your thermostat to a little warmer in the summer and a little cooler in the winter. You might even consider a smart thermostat that will adjust automatically. Also, make sure to turn off lights, computers and appliances when they are not in use.

As a small business, being energy efficient doesn’t have to be daunting. Take some of these small steps and you can start reducing your carbon footprint and cashing in on savings.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank.