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Small Business Grants in the Form of Rebates

March 05, 2018

If you own and operate a business in Chicagoland, you likely fall into the Small Business Energy Efficiency Program, small business grants or rebates as a benefit that is available to all commercial customers.  This program is one slice of the greater ComEd Energy Efficiency Program in Illinois and is designed to help businesses move forward with efficiency improvements through rebates and incentives.

First – why would ComEd share rebates with businesses to help them use less energy?  Isn’t that against their business model since they get paid for the electricity we use?  While that is true that ComEd benefits from the greater amount of electricity that we use financially, they are also required by the Future Energy Jobs Act law to spend a significant amount of money annually on energy efficiency. Since 2007, Illinois has been collecting a tax on each residential, commercial, and public sector’s electric bill and spending that on energy efficiency.

road to improvement

ComEd, like most utilities, differentiates commercial customers by the amount of electricity drawn at any one instant.  Unlike a kWh (kilowatt-hour), they do this by kW (kilowatt). I imagine this helps them stabilize the grid by understanding how many businesses are drawing large amounts of power at any instant, although this classification may have less importance today with the advent of the smart meter.  


Small Business Energy Efficiency Grant Program


For commercial customers that are classified as Small Business (0-100 kW), they are eligible for the Small Business Energy Savings Program, also know as the Small Business Offering.  The SBES or SBO is a small business energy efficiency grant program, paid for by line item taxes on your electric bill. Since this (0-100kW) classification is about how much energy is drawn, and not how much revenue is earned - this can lead to very large businesses qualifying for this program (so the name can be misleading).  Here is a list of likely candidates that will qualify for the 0-100 kW classification, but the only way to really know is to check on your utility bill.

  • Small to medium-sized restaurants
  • Warehouses
  • Small manufacturing facilities
  • Retail stores
  • Churches
  • Small to medium non-profits
  • Offices
  • Parking lots
  • Small grocery stores/convenience stores
  • Gas stations

This program has been designed to really encourage businesses to move forward with energy efficiency, with very generous incentives.  I like to think of it as designed for organizations that do not have a person dedicated to evaluating investments to see if they make sense to move forward.  

Target and Walmart likely has a whole team dedicated to evaluating LED lighting for their parking lots, stores, and thinking about how that investment can benefit the company.  A small business does not - it usually has an owner that is stretched thin and makes most decisions. With large incentives that cover huge portions of the cost, it can make moving forward with energy efficiency a “no-brainer”.  


Small Business Offering Rebates


The core offering of this program is a $.70 per watt reduced incentive on LED conversions.  For example, a 4 lamp 4 ft T12 troffer is considered to have 164 watts in energy usage.  If you install a 36 watt LED fixtures in its place, your incentive would be 164 - 36 = 128 * $.70 per watt reduced = $89.6 of incentive.  Outdoor lighting rebates are actually stronger, at $.80 per watt reduced on LED conversions.  In addition, they offer incentives on occupancy sensors, photocells, and advanced lighting controls.

However, once you get past lighting, the program actually gets more interesting.  

Refrigeration is a common energy hog for restaurants.  The program incentivizes EC motor upgrades, as well as evaporative fan speed controls - which only make that fan run when the evaporative cooler is calling for cooling.  This can combine to improve the efficiency on a shaded pole motor by 90%.

HVAC incentives are also very popular in this program, and there are incentives of up to $600 per ton to encourage folks to take their current rooftop HVAC unit and upgrade to a CEE tier 2 energy efficiency RTU.  Since our most commonly replaced units are 10 tons, that is $6,000 on incentive.

A few products can be provided to the customer at no cost, and those are the following:

  • Smart power strips
  • Weatherstripping
  • Cooler misers
  • Low flow aerators
  • Pre-rinse spray valves for dish washing

If you have not participated in this program before, it might be because it sounds too good to be true.  Well, as an active trade ally for the past 5 years - I can assure you that it is true. In fact, I can assure you that your neighboring businesses have participated and even your competitors.  Yes - your competitors might be using less electricity and having a competitive advantage over you!

One caveat - this program is run through a closed network of trade allies.  You must work with one of these highly trained partners in order to receive these very generous incentives.

How do you find one of those partners?  You already have - just give us a call at (773) 413-9587, or click the link below.  


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Posted by Jamie Johnson

While serving as a firefighter on the north shore of Chicago, Jamie saw how much energy was wasted by leaving lights on overnight in the firehouse. He ran calculations and aspired to find a way to both save enegy and reduce costs. Shortly thereafter, Verde was born.


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