If you get a chance to read through the breakthrough Future Energy Jobs Act, which is the funding and baseline for the ComEd Energy Efficiency Program, you will find that the state of Illinois is committed to supporting Low Income Energy Efficiency program improvements.
In general, lower income populations, both commercial and residential, pay more as a percentage of their income for electricity usage. This makes sense since electricity in your home or business is a necessary evil - and just keeping the lights on cost some basic level of funding. Those with less money will likely pay a greater percentage for this baseline since their overall income is lower.
As a practitioner of energy efficiency in Illinois, I would say that qualitatively I have seen lower income businesses and churches pay more for electricity than wealthier businesses and churches of the equivalent size. I imagine this is because there is less capital to invest in improvements like LED lights, Smart Thermostats, and upgrade HVAC equipment. For this reason, I am personally excited that more emphasis will be placed on low-income energy efficiency improvements in Illinois - because the needs are greater.
Multifamily Low-Income Projects
Multifamily projects are a great place for energy efficiency projects as they often contain a great deal of 24-hour lighting on the inside, and exterior security lighting on the outside. We love doing work for long operating hour locations for two reasons.
- First, the long hours mean that the Return on Investment for any capital improvement is faster. If you reduce 100 watts and it costs a set amount of money - that payback will be faster the longer it is used. 24-hour operations in the common area can make paybacks 3-4 times faster a normal commercial space and make energy efficiency project very cost effective.
- Second, the long operating hours also mean that the energy savings will be greater. This might seem redundant to the first point, but it is different. Verde believes in what we do, that reducing energy is important for our collective society to be undertaking. If we have the opportunity to work with a business and reduce 100W or 1000W, we get more excited about the latter. That's just who we are.
Low-Income Businesses and Nonprofits
Low-income businesses and nonprofits in Chicago are often doing important community building in Chicagoland. We love reducing their energy, so they can do more of what they are doing for the community. Whether they are providing fresh fruits and vegetables to a neighborhood as a for-profit or helping connect kids to after-school programs - we are all stronger when they are spending more of their money on products and programming than electricity.
For the past 6 years, Verde Energy Efficiency Experts (previously known as Verde Sustainable Solutions) has worked with several hundred churches. There is a natural synergy with working with community places of worship, as they tend to (in general) believe in protecting the environment. They also understand that there is a lot of money available and that you often just have to be in the right place at the right time.
Unfortunately, churches often have low operating hours when they are stand-alone religious buildings. Often, we see a combination of schools, soup kitchens, or other community building and our combined effort on energy efficiency is deeper.