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How Con Edison Helps Small Businesses Cut Energy Costs

By sharing the costs of upgrading their lighting and other technology, the utility lends a hand to local entrepreneurs

More than 97,000 small and medium-sized businesses have taken advantage of Con Edison's free energy assessment (Photo via Getty Images)

Small businesses make up a startling majority—about 98%—of New York City businesses, and employ more than half of the city’s private-sector workforce.

But many of these small businesses lack the technological or financial resources to make money-saving energy efficiency upgrades. Even simple upgrades—changing to new light bulbs, for example—can save money for a business, leaving more for the owner to invest in product, workers or marketing, or to take as profit.

That’s why Con Edison offers its Commercial Direct Install (CDI) energy-efficiency program for small businesses with average peak electricity demand of 300 kilowatts or less per month. The program helps these customers pay for upgrades that save energy and reduce monthly energy bills. On average, Con Edison pays for about 50% of the upgrades a customer chooses.

The program is easy to use. Once a small business customer contacts Con Edison, the company sends a contractor with expertise in energy efficiency to perform a free assessment of the customer’s lighting, HVAC, appliances and other equipment.

The energy advisor provides the customer with a list of upgrades that could lighten the business’s electric bill. The report provides an estimate of how much each upgrade will save, the cost of the project, and the amount Con Edison will cover.

If the customer accepts Con Edison’s recommendations, or some of them, the customer chooses a contractor approved by Con Edison to make the upgrades. After the work is complete, Con Edison pays the incentive directly to the contractor, so the customer does not have to wait for a rebate.

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Shaun Hoyte, manager of the CDI program at Con Edison

“We make the process as simple as possible and work with the customer from the time the customer contacts us right through the completion of the upgrades,” said Shaun Hoyte, who manages the program for Con Edison. “We provide the assessment, a list of contractors and pay the contractor the customer chooses. We’re there from start to finish.”

Hoyte says lighting upgrades—switching to LED bulbs or changing fixtures—have accounted for about 95% of the savings realized by small and medium-sized business owners who have participated in the program.

But CDI recently began providing incentives for several new non-lighting measures. These include various heating-and-cooling upgrades and more efficient refrigeration and kitchen equipment.

“Small businesses in this city are incredibly diverse in size, the kinds of products and services they provide, and the equipment they use,” said Hoyte. “We want to offer incentives and solutions that can benefit all of these customers.”

Customer savings vary, depending on the size and type of the business. But one case study Hoyte offers—a pediatrics center that received new LED lights and fixtures—boasted  annual savings of $2,700 after paying $2,600 for upgrades. Con Edison covered $5,200 of the $7,800 cost of the upgrades.

Another success story comes from a Staten Island yoga-studio operator who told Con Edison that her savings were so robust that she was able to hire an additional instructor, opening up more time for her to tend to other aspects of the business.

CDI helps New York City businesses save 80 to 100 gigawatt hours of electricity usage per year. That makes New York City a better place to do business and helps keep our region’s environment clean, safe and sustainable.

Since the program started in 2009, more than 97,000 small to medium-sized businesses have taken advantage of the free energy assessment. But Hoyte said Con Edison estimates 350,000 customers are eligible.

Con Edison wants to help as many of those customers as possible.

Michael Stahl is a freelance writer and editor. A former high school English teacher, he has written for Rolling Stone, Vice, the Village Voice, Narratively, Splitsider, Outside Magazine and other publications.