Efficiency Maine kicks off new small business initiative

Theron Larkins, Special to The County
9 years ago

    CARIBOU, Maine — Efficiency Maine held a conference on Sept. 10 at the Caribou Inn and Convention Center, where experts met with local business owners and members of the general public for the unveiling of their brand new initiative dubbed the Small Business Direct Install (SBDI) program.
The SBDI program is a special initiative Efficiency Maine has partnered with Carlisle Electric to offer Caribou area businesses an easy way to replace inefficient lighting in order to improve lighting quality and lower electricity costs.

“The high-efficiency replacement lights will significantly reduce electric consumption and operating costs,” said Rick Meinking, business program manager for Efficiency Maine. “For a limited time, Efficiency Maine is offering qualifying Caribou businesses incentives that cover 75 to 80 percent of project costs. Many businesses will see a payback of less than a year.”
Meinking and the rest of his Efficiency Maine team began the day of Sept. 10 in Van Buren then stopped in Caribou before making their way to Fort Kent and Madawaska in the following days. These were the first four Maine towns to be provided access to the SBDI initiative.
It’s pretty exciting,” said  Tom Rooney, who is managing the SBDI program. “This is a big initiative of Efficiency Maine’s because small businesses are often left out of energy-efficiency programs. Larger customers might have a team that looks at energy costs or equipment, but generally smaller business owners are focused on running their business rather than deciding whether or not they need to change their lighting to save some money.”
Rooney explained that the initiative is dealing solely with lighting, despite many of the other incentive programs Efficiency Maine has for other areas.
“We are focused entirely on lighting, but getting the inefficient lighting out of your businesses and replacing them with high quality efficient fixtures in there, so your business can save a lot of money, and offering some pretty rich incentives to get there,” Rooney added.
The program was designed to reduce commercial customers’ utility costs by providing the opportunity to upgrade existing lighting to state-of-the -art, energy-efficient lighting with incentives of up to 80 percent of the cost of the upgrade provided by Efficiency Maine, according to Meinking.
“Small businesses have significant efficiency opportunities, but the scale and cost of individual projects prevent some small businesses from upgrading lighting or other equipment. By focusing the program in a specific geographic region, Efficiency Maine is able to reduce administrative costs and pass those savings along to small business owners.”
One local business that took advantage of the new SBDI program early in its inception was Gagnon’s Auto and RV Sales. Gagnon’s Auto acted as the pilot for the program in Caribou, and earned a 75 percent savings on the lighting and installation, as well as what they believe will be enough savings to earn a 100 percent return on their expenses.
Gagnon’s accountant Pam Wilcox and owner Gary Gagnon spoke on Tuesday about their experience with the SBDI program through Efficiency Maine, and the installation process with Carlisle Electric, which they claimed was an excellent experience and a deal that initially appeared too good to be true.
“We first heard about the program through Gilman Electric in Presque Isle, who is working with Carlisle Electric to provide the parts and materials needed for the installations,” said Wilcox. “Gilman Electric and Darren Carlisle of Carlisle Electric came in and did a review of the lights and our electrical usage, then made a proposal on what exactly they wanted to do.”
Gagnon and Wilcox explained that prior to the installation of their new light fixtures, they were using metal halide lights in the shop, which were not cost-effective. Carlisle Electric replaced the halide lights with T5 light fixtures, and also replaced lights throughout the entire building, aside from the showroom.
“The first floor lights were switched to T8 light fixtures and the office lights are now LEDs and the rest of the lights in the building were retrofitted,” said Wilcox.
As for the installation process itself, Wilcox and Gagnon both praised Carlisle Electric and Gilman Electric for their expertise and their flexibility.
“They came in and completed the installs on the weekends, so they didn’t disrupt our business at all,” said Wilcox.
The overall experience for Gagnon’s was certainly a positive one, as Wilcox explained that Efficiency Maine covered 75 percent of the cost, including parts and labor. The ultimate goal for Gagnon’s and all those who take place in the SBDI program is to start seeing a total return and savings after the first year, which Wilcox explained is exactly what the parties were shooting for.
“Overall, the project was excellent,” said Wilcox. “We’ve been encouraging all of our fellow businesses to take advantage of this program.”
Qualifying businesses can call Efficiency Maine at 866-376-2463 to schedule a free, no-obligation lighting energy assessment.