Chambers Of Commerce: Helping Small Businesses With Energy Innovation
How Chambers of Commerce Support Small and Medium Businesses with Energy Efficiency
In May 2013, the Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE) released a report, “Local Chambers as Change Agents: Creating Economic Vitality through Clean Energy and Innovation,” outlining ways in which chambers of commerce can help small to medium-sized business better understand and use energy. CICE provides information on a variety of topics, including energy efficient building labeling systems, renewable energy and electrical reliability. It also offers recommendations for professional services and green financing options. With more than 278,000 businesses in 48 states, CICE works with and is led by local business leaders.
In CICE, businesses work together on clean energy and energy efficiency strategies that benefit local members. This relationship drives a virtuous cycle in which the chambers help businesses understand and improve their energy use and in turn become stronger, more stable members of the business community, thereby strengthening the business network. In Cleveland, Ohio, the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) has helped member businesses negotiate lower utility rates, secure grants for energy efficient upgrades to businesses, and develop innovative local financing solutions. Without the chamber-business relationship, many small and medium-sized businesses would be left without a network of experts and without financing options to support energy efficient improvements. Local chambers of commerce hold the unique position in the network of businesses by facilitating advanced business-to-business interaction not traditionally performed by small or medium-sized companies.
CICE members may also have access to the experience and guidance from trusted professional service providers, including energy auditors. One of the strongest roles the chamber can play is to be a source of information, including best practices and sample contracts. The Merrimack Chamber of Commerce in Massachusetts worked with its members to begin clean energy projects, connect to utility incentive programs, and work with an energy planning group to produce energy efficiency plans and set strategic energy goals. Among the most successful projects was a 1,166-panel photovoltaic array that produces an estimated 400,000 kWh per year and is being used to power a 40-year-old manufacturing building.
The business, the local chamber of commerce, and the national organizations such as CICE are stakeholders in energy efficiency. With the ability to offer information to members, coordinate operations to the benefit of the network, and provide contacts for professional services, small and medium-sized businesses can engage in energy efficient projects, opening the door to savings and eco-friendly business practices.
Read the Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy report, visit: http://www.chambersforinnovation.com/changeagents/