Energy efficiency lays the groundwork for nonprofit organizations striving to maximize their impact while minimizing costs. From alleviating financial burdens to bolstering community outreach, energy conservation projects foster sustainability while empowering organizations to redirect valuable resources towards their community-driven missions.
Below, we delve into four compelling success stories where nonprofits have harnessed the power of energy efficiency to transform their operations and uplift the communities they serve. From a transformative LED lighting retrofit and improving multi-family housing through HVAC optimization to the impact of solar panel installation and federal funding, nonprofits have the power to create stronger and more sustainable communities. Through these narratives, we illustrate the mutually beneficial relationship between energy conservation and the overarching missions of nonprofit organizations.
LEDs Retrofits Illuminate Substantial Savings for an Illinois Ministry
Restoration Urban Ministries is a multifaceted nonprofit incorporating a church, transitional housing, addiction recovery, and a food and clothing bank to support the needs of Champaign, Illinois. Relying solely on private donations, projects, programs, and renovations compete for the nonprofit’s modest budget. These programs are located in older buildings with outdated systems. Founder Reverend Ervin T. Williams knew that reducing utility costs would allow them to reallocate these savings into their community-driven initiatives. Lighting accounts for 17% of an average building’s energy consumption, so Williams knew there was a great opportunity for significant savings through lighting upgrades.
The ministry completed a free energy assessment in 2020 through local power company Ameren Illinois’ Small Business Direct Install Initiative (SBDI.) This assessment identified the potential energy savings the ministry could achieve through a lighting retrofit. Unfortunately, the predicted upgrade costs were beyond the Ministry’s limited budget. Thankfully, Ameren Illinois initiated a new financing program in late 2020, which provides additional financial support to underserved businesses and nonprofits. Through this grant, the ministry was able to complete their lighting upgrade at zero cost – improving comfort, reducing energy consumption, and lowering utility expenses without affecting their mission-driven budget.
The upgrade included a complete overhaul of their outdated lighting and replaced them with energy-efficient LEDs. Through Ameren Illinois’ financial assistance program, the ministry received more than $10,000 in incentives and grants, covering 100% of their retrofit project. Restoration Urban Ministries now saves more than $3,500 annually on utility costs. Their upgraded LED lighting is 90% more efficient than their previous incandescent lighting with a significantly longer lifespan, saving on energy consumption and maintenance costs over time. Each dollar the ministry saves is a dollar that can be used to better serve their community.
Improving Chicago’s Multi-Family Housing with HVAC Optimization
Elevate Energy is a Chicago-based nonprofit with the mission to create a more equitable world in which everyone has clean and comfortable heat, power, and water in their homes and communities. Their goal is to make energy efficiency and renewable energy more accessible in the Chicago area. In 2007, the organization embarked on a large initiative to upgrade older, multifamily dwellings into safe, more resilient, and sustainable spaces.
Since 2007, Elevate Energy has provided energy efficiency upgrades to more than 25,000 units in Illinois and has expanded to help establish similar programs across the U.S.. Their clients’ biggest concerns were providing safer, healthier buildings but clients weren’t sure how to approach and finance efficiency projects. Elevate Energy is a one-stop-shop, providing building owners with assessments, reviewing energy bills, detailing financing options, and helping owners find the right contractors.
The majority of their efficiency projects focus on improving heating, air sealing, and insulation in older buildings. One successful renovation was a 55-unit, 87-year-old building in Chicago. Elevate Energy installed a new steam boiler and upgraded to a more efficient water heater with insulated pipes. By overhauling the HVAC and water systems, their utility costs cut in half, saving over $20,000 annually. Another successful project occurred in a historic 92-year-old, 96-unit building in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. Elevate Energy replaced windows, doors, and upgraded to a new hot water boiler system. As a result, this renovation saved the historic building $46,000 per year, preserving the building’s affordable rent prices. Through energy efficiency initiatives, Elevate Energy is able to provide safer and more affordable housing to underserved communities.
Reducing Costs & Improving Education through Solar Panel Installation
Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School provides hands-on learning opportunities with up-to-date industry technologies in Franklin, Massachusetts. The industrial equipment at the center of their vocational programs is deeply energy-intensive, forcing the school to devote classroom budgets on utility expenses. In order to maintain the quality of education in their programs, the Tri-County Regional needed to find a solution to reduce their energy costs.
The high school partnered with PowerOptions, a nonprofit organization that provides nonprofit and public entities with unique energy solutions to reduce overhead expenses, bolstering their budgets for community-driven work. The school utilized PowerOptions’ Solar Program to design and construct a solar field on land adjacent to the school. This solar field contains 1.3 megawatts (MW) of solar power to offset their energy-intensive equipment. Tri-County Regional’s solar field is expected to generate more than $1million in energy cost savings over the next 20 years.
Beyond powering vocational learning programs, Tri-County Regional’s solar field also offers additional hands-on learning opportunities. Since its construction, more than 1,000 students have had the opportunity to learn about the environmental and financial benefits of solar energy. This real-life renewable energy application is inspiring students to pursue education and career paths in the renewable energy industry, proving that what’s beneficial for the environment is also beneficial for the next generation of professionals.
Ecology Action Finances Food Bank Efficiency with Federal Funding
Ecology Action is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering individuals to make positive changes for a healthier, more equitable, carbon-neutral future. Their mission-driven work provides energy and climate solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to a more sustainable community. During 2023, Ecology Action applied for federal funding through the Biden Administration’s Renew America’s Nonprofits program. In October 2023, Ecology Action was awarded $5.8 million in grants to pursue energy efficiency upgrades in over 50 food banks in disadvantaged and tribal communities throughout California, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon.
Their initiatives will focus on providing no-to-low cost energy efficiency upgrades to reduce energy costs in each food bank, enabling these vital sources of community support to invest their savings in mission-critical work. Moreover, Ecology Action’s program will support upgraded lighting, refrigeration, HVAC, building controls, and other energy-saving measures to reduce each facility’s electricity consumption by 20%. It’s estimated that these projects could save nearly $24 million in energy costs over time. Starting in early 2024, the organization will oversee projects from start to finish including on-the-job training post-renovation to support additional career opportunities. The funding provided by Renew America’s Nonprofits enables organizations to create lasting, sustainable changes to communities across the country.
Energy Efficiency Fosters Stronger, Healthier Communities
Energy costs are the second-highest operational expenses for most nonprofits, only behind salaries. Implementing energy efficiency measures significantly reduces nonprofit operational expenses, enabling organizations to redirect their savings into mission-driven work to support their communities. Beyond the significant savings energy-efficiency can provide, these measures foster stronger, healthier communities by making buildings more sustainable and helping address climate change.
Outdated, inefficient building systems, especially those powered by fossil fuels, release pollutants into the air, having a substantial effect on indoor air quality. Poor air quality can lead to asthma and other respiratory problems for employees, volunteers, and those who visit nonprofit facilities to use their services. At-risk populations such as children, the elderly, and people with chronic conditions are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality.
Investing in energy efficiency measures and maintenance as well as upgrading to more sustainable building systems has a two-fold effect – improving indoor air quality for visitors and reducing overhead expenses for the organization. Furthermore, by adopting energy-saving measures and investing in sustainable technologies, nonprofit organizations create a sustainable and energy-conscious reputation that empowers their community members to follow in their footsteps. Nonprofits are essential community resources with the ability to empower lasting and sustainable change in the communities they serve.
Nonprofits Provide an Equitable and Efficient Future
Reflecting on these narratives of nonprofit energy efficiency initiatives, it’s evident that our future holds immense potential for innovation and impact. From LED lighting retrofits and HVAC optimization to solar panel installations and federal funding opportunities, these case studies illustrate the transformative power of energy conservation in reducing operational expenses and advancing community-driven missions.
Take an additional step towards cost-effective energy solutions, by requesting a free quote from Integrity Energy today! As one of the country’s leading commercial energy brokers, we’re dedicated to finding the most cost-effective energy rates available, so you can redirect your savings towards mission-driven community initiatives. Together, we can build a more sustainable and equitable future for our communities, one energy-efficient step at a time.