TRAVERSE CITY — A new competition aimed at cutting kilowatt consumption means Northern Michigan businesses have more than just bottom-line incentives to pursue energy efficiency in commercial buildings.
The West Michigan Battle of the Buildings competition will, in the long run, help businesses save money, said Mike Steadman, an energy consultant for Hurst Mechanical.
Steadman is also a member of the U.S. Green Building Council’s West Michigan chapter, sponsored the competition. He said participating businesses can implement energy efficiency measures while performing real-time tracking of resulting savings.
“It could be schools, it could be office buildings or manufacturing,” Steadman said. “It’s kind of like The Biggest Loser in weight. If you can get your energy use in your building down compared to last year — it doesn’t matter if you are a little user or a big user — it’s all about the percentage you lose.”
The registration deadline for the competition is March 31. Contenders will measure and track their energy consumption using an online portfolio manager made available by the Environmental Protection Agency. Competitors who cut their energy usage the most will be recognized in a 2015 energy summit.
The Better Buildings competition is one of several energy efficiency programs available to businesses in the Grand Traverse region. The Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce set up an energy efficiency loan fund in 2012.
That fund financed about $157,500 split into nine loans to seven companies through 2013. Two nonprofits — the Michigan Land Use Institute and SEEDS — are working with the City of Traverse City and Traverse City Light & Power to offer energy audits and low-interest loans to Traverse City homeowners as part of the TC Saves program.
“We are trying to help promote the Battle of the Buildings (contest),” said Laura Galbraith, the chamber’s senior vice president of finance and administration. “We’ve seen the results of companies investing in energy efficiency projects. They’ve had sufficient savings.”
This winter’s higher energy costs should be added incentive for participating in the buildings competition, Steadman said. Propane costs have, in some cases, tripled in northern Michigan, increasing costs for business owners.
“The biggest thing is reducing energy,” Steadman said. The bottom line is it will save you dollars. Everyone is getting squeezed right now. I’ve gotten calls (from business owners) …who said we’ve gone up a 150 percent (in heating costs).”
For more information on the Better Buildings contest go to http://www.usgbcwm.org/.