Unlocking Incentive-Based Energy Upgrades for Small Businesses

The phrase, “there’s no such thing as a free ride,” usually holds true. But there are exceptions from time to time. Right now, many small businesses can upgrade their energy infrastructure with zero capital outlay. That’s thanks to the Small Business Direct Install (SBDI) program, offered by utility companies to promote energy efficiency and decarbonization in states such as New Jersey.

The program is a game changer for small businesses, providing incentives of up to 80 percent of the project cost and 0 percent financing for up to 5 years.

“In some cases, the customer can see an immediate net positive cash flow,” explains Matt Lima, Director of Energy & Utility Programs. “It’s like getting free money twice. First, through incredible incentives and then, through 0 percent financing. It’s a windfall of cost-free capital, virtually unheard of in this interest-rate market.”

SBDI covers energy upgrades including HVAC, refrigeration, lighting, control systems, Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs), demand-controlled ventilation and HVAC tune-ups.

“These projects pay for themselves with little or no impact on a customer’s monthly expense. Many utilities also offer on-bill financing, meaning that customers don’t have to take out a loan. The improvement costs are a line item on the monthly utility bill and often, the energy savings offset the costs.”

Qualifying as a small business in New Jersey

Commercial accounts with an average annual demand of 200 KW or less are prime candidates for SBDI. More energy-intense businesses could benefit from other state programs.

Various organizations have already embraced SBDI, from office buildings, restaurants, and manufacturing facilities, to schools, doctor’s offices, and religious organizations. “We’ve done 40 projects in New Jersey this year, with a diverse portfolio of companies reducing their energy costs,” notes Lima.

Beyond financial savings, SBDI projects yield better air quality, enhanced comfort and productivity, increased safety, and a boost to a company’s reputation.

A streamlined process

As an approved trade ally with PSE&G, JCP&L, NJNG and Atlantic City Electric, Vanguard Building Solutions offers prospects a free energy assessment—a significant initial savings. “We make it simple,” promises Lima, “securing utility approval, procuring equipment, managing the installation, and closing out the project. Approval for utility incentives and financing usually takes 3 to 6 weeks.”

Other state programs

Pennsylvania offers energy efficiency incentives through a program called PECO Small Business Solutions. In New York, the Clean Heat Program targets the electrification of HVAC and hot water systems for businesses of all sizes. This involves replacing fossil-fuel-based systems with efficient heat pumps or hot water heat pumps. The incentives are particularly generous for small businesses and multifamily properties, especially in low-income areas. Vanguard is a trade ally for utilities throughout New York and a contractor ally for the New York City Accelerator program, supported by the mayor’s office.

Optimizing energy efficiency

Combining energy upgrades yields the best results according to Lima. Efficient heating and cooling boosts health and comfort, refrigeration conversions cut expenses and lighting upgrades improve energy efficiency, ambiance, and safety.

“This is a great time to put a little bit or no money down and have the utility pay the rest so you get a completely new system,” he emphasizes. “The payback is much, much better.”

Interested in zero-cost financing for energy efficiency upgrades for your building? The experts at Vanguard Building Solutions are ready to show you how.