Energy efficiency rewarding for Michigan businesses

By  Justine McGuire
Detroit is revitalizing its waterfront for public use. Photo: Mark Burrows

Detroit ranked in top 25 U.S. cities with the most ENERGY STAR rated building. Photo: Mark Burrows

Success in energy efficiency is something worth bragging about in Michigan.

Detroit was listed in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2012 top 25 cities with the most ENERGY STAR rated buildings. It ranked 19th with 100 ENERGY STAR buildings. The leader, Los Angeles, had 528 buildings with ENERGY STAR ratings.

ENERGY STAR buildings use less energy, are less expensive to operate and cause fewer greenhouse gas emissions than at least 75 percent of similar buildings.

Chicago, Cincinnati and Indianapolis were also on the list and ranked 3rd, 13th and 21st, respectively.

Other areas of Michigan are also doing their part to save on energy.
The Michigan Energy Office has worked with more than 700 customers with one or more buildings since 1998 through the Rebuild Michigan Program to get them on track for ENERGY STAR ratings, said program manager Tim Shireman.

This year, the program has at least $50,000 more than last year and will be able to inspect more buildings to help them save energy, Shireman said. The program’s budget is $157,500 and comes from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Schools, local governments and small businesses voluntarily enroll in Rebuild Michigan and the inspection is free.

In 2012, the program worked with 29 new schools, local governments and small businesses.

ENERGY STAR recognized 224 buildings in Michigan in 2012 and 731 buildings since the program began rating buildings in 1999.

Grand Rapids is known for its work toward energy efficiency. The city is No. 1 in the U.S. for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certified buildings per capita. It also has 35 ENERGY STAR buildings.

Like ENERGY STAR, LEED considers energy efficiency in certification, but also includes water efficiency, use of sustainable building materials and indoor environmental quality.

Haris Alibasic, the Grand Rapids Office of Energy and Sustainability director, said it’s impressive that there are so many LEED buildings in the city because there’s no government mandate for energy-efficient buildings.

Alibasic said the mayor encourages energy efficiency, and the city leads by example.

Grand Rapids has reduced energy use in its more than 300 government-owned buildings from 106 million kilowatt hours

The city of Grand Rapids has increased its Photo: gbozik photography (flickr)

The city of Grand Rapids has reduced energy use in more than 300 government-owned buildings.  Photo: gbozik photography (flickr)

in 2008 to 99 million in 2011, according to the city’s sustainability report.

The average American home uses about 11,500 kilowatt hours per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Alibasic said the city spends about $8 million a year on energy, so it wants to save anywhere it can. In 2013 the city will be looking to improve energy efficiency at its Lake Michigan Filtration Plant and Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Traverse City is also working toward more energy efficient buildings, said Jessica Wheaton, marketing and community relations coordinator for the Traverse City Board of Light and Power.

The utility pays incentive money when non-residential buildings get energy upgrades. In 2013, it is offering a new incentive to put solar panels on roofs called the Community Solar Garden, but no projects have begun yet, Wheaton said.

The program allows light and power customers to lease a solar panel for 25 years for a one-time fee of $395, after a $75 rebate. Every solar panel is rated with a kilowatt number and the program also gives a $100 rebate per kilowatt on each panel.

The project is in partnership with Cherryland Electric Cooperative.
Cherryland and Traverse City Board of Light and Power will also have their own solar panel gardens.

In 2012 the utility paid out more than $186,000 to 81 commercial and industrial customers for doing “anything a business can think of” related to energy saving from replacing light bulbs to installing three-phase electric motors, Wheaton said. It also gave incentives to 55 small businesses.

The utility gives up to $15,000 a year to individual businesses or buildings, and Wheaton said many max it out.

The city has 7 ENERGY STAR buildings.

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