Moving business forward: The energy efficiency opportunity

Posted on 1/19/2017 by Liz Gamache

 Efficiency Vermont Energy Consultant, Ethan Bellevance and Champlain Orchards owner, Bill Suhr


Energy keeps Vermont businesses running, helping them create good jobs for Vermonters and grow the state’s economy. As a business grows, so can its appetite for energy—and the accompanying energy bill will grow too.

Businesses in Vermont are looking for ways to reduce energy costs. This is where efficiency can offer a clear opportunity for businesses, and here at Efficiency Vermont, we are eager to be a partner in helping business leaders to seize that opportunity.

Businesses can reap wonderful benefits from energy savings. They range from the basic, such as helping to keep the bottom line healthy, to the unexpected, such as improving comfort for staff and customers in a way that leads to greater sales and productivity. Energy efficiency can help businesses increase profitability, serve customers better, and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

To help Vermont businesses take better advantage of the opportunity that efficiency represents, Efficiency Vermont is embarking on an ambitious initiative. The initiative, named “Business Forward,” will mobilize resources to make investing in energy efficiency easier and more cost-effective for Vermont businesses. This will result in lowering the up-front costs of making energy efficiency improvements while also reducing the time it takes to pay for the improvements.

I believe that by making smart investments in energy efficiency, businesses of all sizes and types can lead the way toward a more energy-efficient and economically sound Vermont. Through Business Forward, we hope to help Vermont’s businesses achieve annual energy savings equal to the output of a 30 MW gas power plant operating nonstop for 13 weeks.

Businesses have led the way in reducing Vermont’s overall demand for electricity. In recent years, more than two-thirds of the energy savings we’ve reported have come from non-residential customers.

Efficiency investments help businesses grow

There are energy saving opportunities in every nook and cranny of a business, if you know where to look. Champlain Orchards in Shoreham, Vermont, is one business poised to grow thanks to efficiency.  Efficiency Vermont energy experts helped Champlain Orchards analyze its operations, identify the biggest opportunities for savings, and create and execute a plan to achieve the savings.

Like many other companies in Vermont, the orchard has more than one line of business. Not only does Champlain Orchards grow delicious fresh apples, it also produces sweet cider, hard cider, bulk cider, apple pies, and specialty products such as cider syrup, cider sauce, and apple butter.

Bill Suhr, owner of Champlain Orchards, has made substantial investments in energy efficiency throughout his business. To date, the orchard has upgraded to efficient electric compressors, pumps, fans, and lights. Suhr made additional investments to keep atmosphere-controlled air from escaping the long-term apple storage rooms. This work included installing an “electric eye” that senses when someone needs to leave the storage facility, then rapidly opens and closes the main door to reduce the amount of air that escapes. Champlain Orchards invested in transforming its energy-intensive storage facilities; we have estimated that the business will save about $35,000 annually on energy costs.

Suhr has partnered with us in the past, and he’s ready to continue Champlain Orchards’ energy journey to achieve even more savings. During the Business Forward campaign, he has plans to make additional storage facility improvements, office space improvements, and upgrades to the walk-in display refrigerator in the farm store. These projects are estimated to save another $15,000 in annual energy costs.

Building new opportunities to save more than $190 million in energy costs

Investments in energy efficiency can lower operating costs for businesses. In turn, productivity can increase and a business can remain competitive. When a business works with Efficiency Vermont, it gets the added value of technical expertise, financial incentives, and project support to reduce the cost of initial investments. Efficiency Vermont project managers, such as Ethan Bellavance, who worked on the successful efficiency projects at Champlain Orchards, bring a fresh set of eyes to each engagement and may find opportunities that others have overlooked.

The Business Forward initiative is a magnification of this methodology. During the Business Forward initiative, from now through the end of 2017, Efficiency Vermont will be making an investment of more than $17 million in technical expertise, customer support, incentives, and rebates to benefit business-related energy efficiency projects. As a result of this investment, Vermont businesses and other commercial customers have the potential to realize a combined financial savings of more than $190 million in energy costs over the next 13 years.

Part of Vermont’s successful use of energy efficiency to offset the need for additional power supply is a result of using integrated approaches such as the opportunities in the Business Forward campaign. We are committing to bringing cutting-edge efficient technologies to Vermont businesses so they can make smarter use of energy and continue to be the engine that powers Vermont’s economy.

To see more about the offers and incentives featured in the Business Forward initiative, visit