Energy costs are rising quickly worldwide. In the US, energy prices jumped as much as 34.6% this year alone. Eastern Kentucky business owners are especially vulnerable to these fluctuations — and many are feeling the squeeze on their cash flows.
The Mountain Association is helping local businesses tackle this challenge, free of charge, because entrepreneurs need to make the most of every dollar that comes in and goes out.
Let’s discuss eligibility when partnering with the Mountain Association, review the services they provide, and summarize the steps you can take to get some relief.
About the Mountain Association
The Mountain Association’s mission is to help create an Eastern Kentucky economy that is diverse, sustainable, equitable, and resilient. It serves businesses, nonprofits, public agencies, and homeowners.
One way they pursue their mission is through helping local small businesses save money on their energy bills.
As a nonprofit, the Mountain Association is not in the business of selling you anything. Instead, their team of energy experts provides free services to help owners understand how to reduce energy costs, increase profits, and make well-informed decisions about the future of their businesses.
Overview of the Mountain Association’s energy program
The Mountain Association’s free services provide an end-to-end review of your facility’s energy consumption.
Utility bill analysis
It’s difficult to know how to analyze utility bills for savings opportunities unless you’re a seasoned expert.
The Mountain Association’s first step is to review the last 12 months of utility statements. There may be missed opportunities for savings, and the Mountain Association team knows where to locate them on your bill.
In a recent example, a local government agency saved $20,000 thanks to a utility bill analysis from the Mountain Association.
On-site energy audit
Upgrading energy systems not only has the potential to reduce costs to business owners but also contributes to reducing our collective energy consumption nationwide. Many small businesses reside in commercial buildings smaller than 50,000 square feet. And these facilities represent 44% of total commercial building energy use in the US.
In this step, the Mountain Association team will review the facility to explore upgrade opportunities that can save the business money. Commercial buildings, especially those over 10-20 years old, often incur unnecessary costs that chip away at profits.
While energy efficiency upgrades are an investment, they will save businesses money. These investments also increase property values.
The Mountain Association representative will help you price out the costs of the upgrades, forecast the expected savings on utility bills, and calculate the break-even point. Business owners may enjoy savings sooner than expected when they can leverage funding support.
After working with the Mountain Association, a local grocery store increased annual profits by $47,000. With the savings, the business owner hired 2 new full-time employees. The team provided technical analysis, guidance, grant application support, and financing.
There are two programs available to most Eastern Kentucky small businesses. The Mountain Association can help companies to locate and apply for these grants, which may help offset some of the up-front costs of energy-related upgrades. Additional assistance will soon be coming online through the Inflation Reduction Act.
How to work with the Mountain Association
Step 1: Fill out a short online application
You may also call their office to fill it out over the phone. You’ll need information about your building’s square footage, current energy usage, and other details.
Step 2: Download utility bills
As the Mountain Association processes your application, you can get ahead of the next steps by logging into your gas and electric utility accounts. Download the last 12 months of detailed statements, and share that with the team once they ask for them.
Step 3: Schedule an on-site visit
Once your application is processed, the team will reach out to schedule an on-site visit. They’ll audit your HVAC system, lighting, insulation, water heaters, and other energy consumption sources.
Step 4: Review your report
After reviewing your utility bills and visiting your facility, the Mountain Association will provide a report with recommendations for next steps. You will receive this report within 4-6 weeks.
Step 5: Take action
Your report will help you gain an in-depth understanding of your facility’s energy consumption. It will identify any problem areas and outline the steps to address them.
The Mountain Association will help you pursue an action plan by:
- Connecting you with approved contractors
- Reviewing contractor bids
- Informing you about grants, rebates, or other programs supporting your type of project
- Supporting financing and grant application processes
Is solar power right for your business?
Solar power is an alternative energy source that can help your business avoid the volatile energy market and save money.
The benefits of solar also include tax reductions, as business owners may claim depreciation on solar equipment over 5 years.
And a low-interest solar loan can result in positive cash flow from day 1 of solar installation, in some cases, and fund your energy upgrade project cheaply.
The Mountain Association will review your site for solar power feasibility during the audit process. It’ll be up to the business owner to decide if solar is the right choice for the business.
Funding opportunities for energy upgrades
The Mountain Association offers energy upgrade loans at 5% interest for 60 months.
The team can also help you apply for federal and state grants that apply to your circumstances:
Additional tax credits and direct payments will become available soon through the Inflation Reduction Act.
Take action today to save money for your small business
These services are offered free to Eastern Kentucky small businesses. There are no obligations to invest in equipment or upgrades unless you determine it’s in the best interest of your business.
There’s nothing to lose — so take action today. Get started on your application to partner with the Mountain Association and save on energy costs for your small business.
SOAR Innovation — powered by KY Innovation — is Eastern Kentucky’s leading partner for small businesses. Contact us to learn more about our offerings to entrepreneurs, including 6 free direct services.