A Comprehensive Guide to Reducing Energy Costs for Nonprofit Organizations
Nonprofit organizations are a vital part of building healthy, vibrant communities. From animal shelters to libraries, and community centers to healthcare clinics, each nonprofit dedicates itself to providing services and support to their community with very limited resources. Despite their modest budgets, nonprofit organizations have a huge impact on our lives.
At Integrity Energy, we understand the important role nonprofits play within our communities as well as the significant costs related to powering these organizations. Energy costs are the second-largest operational expense for most nonprofits, behind only salaries. By improving energy efficiency, nonprofits can lower their utility bills, freeing up resources to expand their mission and impact. This comprehensive guide is the nonprofit’s roadmap to energy efficiency, enabling organizations to reduce expenses and redirect their savings to mission-driven work within the community.
Understanding the Energy Consumption Landscape
In the nonprofit sector, energy consumption revolves around the operational needs of the organization. Regardless of the service a nonprofit provides, each organization exhibits distinct energy consumption patterns, often marked by high usage in lighting, HVAC systems, appliances, and energy loss through structural inefficiencies. These key factors form the core of nonprofit energy expenses. The impact of energy costs on their budgets is substantial, as increased utility bills divert modest budgets and severely impact the ability to pursue community-driven projects. By recognizing energy use patterns and adopting energy-saving practices, nonprofits can reduce these financial challenges to redirect more funding towards their mission-driven work.
Conducting an Energy Audit
The first step in reducing energy costs is understanding current energy use through an energy audit. These assessments are valuable tools that provide insights into a nonprofit’s current energy performance so board members can create achievable energy-saving goals. Professional energy auditors are industry experts who gather and evaluate energy usage data to pinpoint energy-saving opportunities and evaluate the cost-effectiveness of efficiency upgrades. Energy audits not only inform conservation goals, but also encourage the adoption of energy-saving practices and technologies.
Implementing Energy-Saving Measures
After completing an energy audit and creating energy-saving goals, it’s time to put the plan into action. There are five main areas to consider for energy-efficient upgrades:
Start by replacing incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient LED lights, which instantly lower energy costs. LED lights use up to 90% less energy and have a much longer lifespan than traditional incandescent lighting. Additionally, install occupancy sensors or light timers to reduce energy use in unoccupied spaces. Prioritize natural sunlight in your workplace layout to reduce the need for overhead lighting.
HVAC system optimization
Regular and seasonal HVAC maintenance is crucial for efficiency. Your HVAC technician should be replacing air filters regularly, monitoring for inefficiencies, and preparing the facility for each season. A well-maintained heating and cooling system reduces utility costs considerably. When it’s time to upgrade, consider investing in more energy-efficient HVAC equipment and installing smart thermostats and zone controls to further reduce energy costs.
Improve building infrastructure
Energy loss from structural building issues can result in much higher utility bills. Assess your building’s current insulation levels and address any leaks or cracks that can lead to energy loss. Upgrading insulation in attics, walls, floors, or basements improves the comfort of the building while reducing energy waste. Consider upgrading to energy-efficient windows and doors to further reduce energy waste and create a more comfortable environment.
Equipment and appliance efficiency
Evaluating the state of your office equipment is a great opportunity to make energy-saving changes. Identify outdated or energy-hungry appliances and replace them with Energy Star-certified models known for their energy efficiency. Furthermore, implement power management strategies like turning off electronics when not in use to rapidly reduce energy consumption. Invest in smart power strips to reduce additional stand-by energy use from electronics.
Renewable energy integration
Explore the feasibility of installing solar panels or wind energy options, especially if the organization’s location and property are suitable for these technologies. If the cost of installation is out of the budget, consult with your supplier or energy broker to explore additional renewable energy sources available. Integrating renewable energy not only lowers costs, but also establishes your nonprofit as an environmentally and socially-conscious organization.
Employee Engagement and Behavior Change
Fostering an energy-conscious culture begins with your employees and volunteers. Involving them in energy-saving practices empowers them to become conservation advocates. Consider conducting employee education and energy conservation awareness campaigns. Simple behavior changes, such as turning off lights and electronics in unoccupied spaces or prioritizing natural sunlight over artificial lighting, can lead to significant energy savings and while reducing the organization’s environmental impact. Nonprofits can further empower employees by recognizing and rewarding exceptional energy-saving behaviors. Employee involvement and education is a valuable tool that can help reduce energy costs while establishing sustainable, conservation habits in the organization.
Financing Energy Efficiency Projects
The upfront installation costs of energy efficiency upgrades are often the greatest hurdle for nonprofits. Thankfully, there are ample funding options available to relieve this financial burden. The federal government offers a variety of grants such as the Renew America’s Nonprofits grant. There are additional funding options available at the state and local level as well.
Nonprofits can also partner with Energy Services Companies (ESCOs). ESCOs specialize in energy management solutions and offer performance-based contracts, allowing nonprofits to complete upgrades with low upfront costs. These partnerships guarantee energy savings by offsetting the cost of improvements with reduced energy bills. Furthermore, nonprofits can engage in crowdfunding or community-driven initiatives to raise funds for upgrades while fostering energy conservation and sustainability within their community.
Monitoring and Measuring Energy Savings
Monitoring and measuring energy savings is an essential aspect of maintaining an efficient energy management plan. Start by installing energy monitoring systems that capture real-time energy usage data. Regularly collect and analyze this information to gain insights into your consumption patterns and identify areas for improvement. Tracking energy use and the resulting savings allows nonprofits to measure progress towards their goals. Based on these results, organizations can make informed adjustments to further enhance their energy efficiency strategies, ensuring a sustainable and cost-effective approach to energy savings.
Building Long-Term Energy Efficiency Strategies
Creating a lasting impact through energy efficiency requires a structured approach focused on careful preparation, goal setting, and ongoing monitoring and improvements. Establishing achievable energy-saving goals will serve as the foundation for your organization’s long-term energy management plan. Whether your organization’s goal is lowering energy bills or reducing their carbon footprint, these goals provide the blueprint for efficient energy usage.
Consider creating an energy management team dedicated to overseeing efficiency projects and tracking energy use over time. Insights from a dedicated team will inform necessary plan adjustments, celebrate energy-saving milestones, and develop new objectives and practices as your organization grows. The most successful energy management plans involve a committed team that diligently monitors and continuously improves energy practices. As your organization achieves its goals, your energy management team will be prepared to propose the next project to further your energy-saving mission. Incorporating these strategies into your nonprofit’s long-term energy efficiency plan will not only lead to reduced energy expenses but also contribute to a sustainable and environmentally responsible future.
Embracing energy efficiency is not just about saving on utility bills; it’s about empowering nonprofit organizations to do more for their communities. By implementing the strategies outlined in this guide, nonprofits can redirect their financial resources toward their mission-driven work, create a sustainable and environmentally responsible future, and contribute to the well-being of the communities they serve. We encourage all nonprofit organizations to take these steps towards a more energy-efficient future.
As one of the largest energy brokers in the country, Integrity Energy is here to support your energy-saving goals. Contact us today to get started!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average energy consumption of non-profit organizations?
The average energy consumption ranges based on several factors including the size of the organization, the services they provide, and the efficiency of their equipment and facility. On average, small to medium-sized nonprofits may consume anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 kWh (kilowatt-hours) of electricity whereas larger nonprofits can potentially exceed 500,000 kWh of electricity annually. For example, a library likely uses significantly less energy than a health clinic. For an accurate report on your nonprofit’s energy consumption patterns, we recommend hiring an energy auditor.
How much can nonprofit organizations save by reducing energy consumption?
Savings from reduced energy consumption varies based on the strategies used and upgrades completed as well as the size of the organization and local energy costs. Nonprofits will see immediate savings from small upgrades, like switching to LED lighting, whereas larger efficiency projects, like upgrading insulation or installing solar panels, are more likely to save money in the long run. Nonprofits should consider conducting cost-benefit analyses to estimate potential savings accurately and plan their projects accordingly.
Are there specific grants available for energy efficiency projects in nonprofit organizations?
Nonprofit organizations can benefit from federal or state funded grants as well as grants from other foundations or organizations such as Energy Star’s grants. Pay special attention to eligibility requirements and deadlines to ensure your organization and their efficiency projects qualify. Additionally, there are energy efficiency rebate programs and some utilities companies also offer incentives for efficiency upgrades.
What are the benefits of hiring an energy auditor?
Professional energy auditors gather and analyze your organization’s current energy usage data, identify opportunities for improvement, and provide customized recommendations based on your nonprofit’s specific needs and goals. Their data-driven approach to energy efficiency provides nonprofits the resources to create long-term energy management plans.
How can employee engagement contribute to energy savings?
Employee engagement contributes to energy savings through heightened awareness and accountability for energy use. It empowers employees to create healthy energy conservation habits that further reduces energy use in the long term. It also gives the nonprofit the opportunity to reward and celebrate employees who exhibit notable energy-saving behaviors and sustainability practices.
Can nonprofit organizations generate revenue through renewable energy installations?
Yes, nonprofit organizations can generate revenue from renewable energy installations through Renewable Energy Credits, applying for grants that support renewable energy endeavors, participation in community solar programs, and by creating renewable energy educational programs. Additionally, nonprofits with on-site renewable technologies can participate in net metering programs which allow organizations to sell excess renewable energy back to their utility company.