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COSE tries to energize Cleveland companies with green programs

Marc Lefkowitz  |  09/02/10 @ 2:00pm  |  Posted in Clean energy, Green buildings

During the last four years, The Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) rolled out a slew of energy savings programs. And while some early birds are feeding, hundreds of small businesses who may starve in this recession have shied away.

That concerns Nicole Stika, COSE's Energy Program director.

"We're providing a whole suite of products that think beyond paying utility bills," she says. "The businesses that are doing something are already into sustainability. They're the early adopters."

She's referring to the slow-to-launch Green Plus a program where businesses can get an evaluation of their energy use and develop a plan to reduce it. They have access to an online system developed in North Carolina's Research Triangle, and hands-on assistance from an MBA student.

So far, a dozen companies have plunked down the $350 to participate in Green Plus (two companies-LubeStop and Taylor Companies-have been certified).

"If the ROI (return on investment) is not less than 12 months, it's hard for the small business. Changing behaviors is our struggle."

Stika's strategy involves constant reinforcement and targeted messaging. She remains optimistic that business owners who take a minute from their hectic schedule to hear about the programs, will eventually flock.

"As Ohio's energy efficiency mandate gets steep enough, the businesses that use a lot of energy-such as restaurants and cold storage-will be first to take advantage," she predicts.

COSE is an official administrator on behalf of businesses with FirstEnergy, which will rely on companies to help meet the energy efficiency mandate from Senate Bill 221. FirstEnergy will soon begin offering rebates for participating businesses.

COSE stepped up their game this summer with its Energy Efficiency Challenge, a $10,000 give away to COSE members who have started an energy efficiency program and want to do more. To apply, go here).

They also started a statewide Energy Efficiency Program that pays $250 ($350 for Cuyahoga County businesses) toward an energy audit. They have spots for 20 companies in the county, and 15 in the Buckeye-Woodland neighborhood in Cleveland. At the same time, COSE is giving away $200 scholarships to Green Plus. To attend a September 15 workshop on the program, go here.

COSE's Lighting Retrofit Program provides an lighting audit and a walk through of a large-scale retrofit project. COSE member Logan Clutch went through the program at its 25,000 sq ft. manufacturing facility and is projecting $39,900 in savings over five years (a 2.6 year payback).

COSE will partner with the Association of Energy Engineers at their Small Business Conference at the IX Center Oct. 20-21 hosting workshops on energy efficiency and rolling out an energy resource guide, Stika said. On the advocacy side, COSE and Greater Cleveland Partnership's are lobbying for a on-bill financing and incentives from utility regulation at the Statehouse.

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