5 Takeaways from our "Watt’s New in Energy Savings?" Lunch 'n Learn

On July 26, the Better Business Challenge held its first Lunch n’ Learn, “Watt's New in Energy Savings?” at CitySpace. We had a full house – 65 attendees (nearly all Challenge participants) came out to learn how to save their organization energy and money through energy efficiency strategies! 


Featured speakers were Jerry Lawson, National Manager, Energy Star for Small Businesses and Congregations, and Wilson Ratliff, Building Analyst at The Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP). (And a special thanks to Harvest Moon Catering – also a 2018 Better Business Challenge participant – for providing lunch to attendees!)

Both Lawson and Ratliff focused on what the Charlottesville community can do together to make the area more innovative on the energy efficiency front, and shared ideas organizations can implement now to decrease energy consumption, increase savings on their power bill, and protect the environment.
In case you missed the Lunch n’ Learn, here are five takeaways from the day to help you jumpstart your business or organization’s “energy game plan”! (Click HERE for Lawson's full presentation, and HERE for Ratliff's full presentation.)

  1. Commercial Energy Assessment: Ratliff encouraged participants to sign up for a commercial energy assessment to help optimize their building’s energy use and lower operating costs. This service is FREE in the City and $99/per hour in the County. The assessment would also evaluate health and safety issues as well as potential improvements and renewable energy systems that could be installed to improve efficiency, save money, and reduce an organization’s carbon footprint. Ratliff referenced a commercial energy audit that LEAP performed for local business Jean Theory, which has already achieved dividends. Through an LED lighting retrofit, LEAP helped the Charlottesville fashion boutique achieve a 33% reduction in electricity costs and full return on investment in less than a year!

  2. “Sure Savers”: What is the top action that an organization can take to lower energy use? Referencing ENERGY STAR’s list of energy “sure savers,” Lawson recommend simply turning lights and equipment off when not in use and installing low-cost lighting occupant sensors and LEDs. And he encouraged participants to take advantage of the Better Business Challenge’s Energy Scorecard, which features 46 action items designed to reduce and improve energy use at work. He also shared two websites – energystar.gov/smallbiz and energystargov./congregations – both of which detail ways that businesses and congregations can boost financial performance by reducing energy waste and energy costs while being conscientious environmental stewards.

  3. ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” That adage holds especially true when it comes to energy efficiency, said Lawson, which is why he recommended Better Business Challenge participants take full advantage of ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager, a secure online tool that helps users measure and track energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions and set performance benchmarks for one or more buildings.

  4. ENERGY STAR Calculators: Lawson also recommended that participants test out three key ENERGY STAR calculators to help determine their Return on Investment (ROI) and manage energy savings priorities, as well as ENERGY STAR’s top-rated “Help Desk”:

    • Cash Flow Opportunity Calculator: Addresses the “we don’t have the money objection” and translates energy savings into “financial speak.”

    • Building Upgrade Value Calculator: Evaluates costs and benefits of efficiency investments for owner and tenant, including “split incentive.”

    • Financial Value Calculator: Quantifies the value of efficiency improvements using the prevailing price/earnings ratio to estimate the market value of increased earnings that can result from increased energy efficiency.

    • “Help Desk,”: Loaded with additional tools and resources, including a wealth of information on how to save energy through no- and low-cost improvements. (Then, you can use those savings to pay for the more significant upgrades!) Bonus: The ENERGY STAR Help Desk team typically responds to questions within 48-72 hours, and they have a 98% customer satisfaction rate.

  5. Solarize Virginia: Through LEAP’s Solarize campaign, a community-based outreach initiative that helps homes to go solar more easily and affordably, Ratliff highlighted steps participants can take to improve their own household’s energy efficiency. Benefits of the Solarize campaign include education about solar through free community workshops, free solar satellite assessments, access to qualified, local solar installers, discounted pricing for solar systems, information about incentives and financing, and facilitation of solar installation. Since 2014, the Solarize campaign has installed 322 solar power systems, totaling 2.3 MW of capacity! Visit the Solarize website – solarizeva.org – for information about the next local campaign and learn more about the financial opportunities of integrating solar power systems into your home. LEAP also offers a Home Energy Check-Up to Charlottesville residents for only $45 – an incredible value.

Mark your calendars now for our next Lunch n’ Learn happening September 27, featuring the topic, “The Dollars and Sense of Going Solar”!