Trusted “One Stop” for small business lighting adds HVAC to its efficiencies portfolio
In 2000, CEE launched the One-Stop Efficiency Shop®, a full-service lighting rebate program that helps Minnesota’s small businesses save energy through better lighting. Since 2000 the program has saved 139 MW, 535,000 MWh and has disbursed $65 million in rebates to 16,758 program participants.
Now One-Stop has added HVAC services to the program. “HVAC” (short for heating, ventilation, and air condition) refers to systems that provide buildings with heating and cooling as well as regulated indoor air quality. Mark Totino joined CEE’s staff to help launch the new program offering. We sat down with Mark to learn a little bit more about his background and CEE’s decision to incorporate HVAC into the One-Stop program, as well as the added value that HVAC services bring to our clients.
Helen: What led you to this new role at CEE, and what will you be doing here?
Mark: I have worked in and around the HVAC industry since about 1987. I started out as a heating system specialist in the U.S. Air Force, where I was able to travel around the world and work on a wide range of equipment. I came back to Minnesota around 1991 and worked as a service technician on commercial, industrial, and residential HVAC equipment. From there I moved in to the sales and project management side of the industry, and now I am excited to take on more of consulting role here at CEE.
The One-Stop program performs energy audits on qualifying buildings (small businesses in Xcel Energy service territory with peak demand 400 kilowatts or less) and then provides a report that clearly outlines what they can do to reduce their energy use. In the past we have looked only at lighting upgrades, but now we’ll also look for potential savings through HVAC improvements. One-Stop has worked with so many small businesses over the years to help identify and implement energy savings. So one of the first things I am going to do as the new HVAC consultant is return to those customers and see if there are any additional savings to be found. I will also be a resource for vendors as they look for ways to help their customers save energy through HVAC upgrades.
H: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from past experiences?
M: I know from my past work that there are a lot of potential savings opportunities out there and I think this program can really make a difference. Like any new program, getting off the ground can be a long process — we’ve been putting in a lot of work on the front end and I am excited to actually get out there and help Minnesota businesses save money and energy.
H: After 16 successful years in lighting, why is One-Stop adding HVAC services now?
M: Tapping into new energy savings in HVAC can help Minnesota stay on track to meet its efficiency goals. Utilities are always digging deeper to find new ways for their customers to save energy — but as new tech and markets continue to evolve, it becomes increasingly challenging to squeeze more efficiencies into our already much-improved lighting field.
HVAC offers new low-hanging fruit for improvements, with ripe opportunities for energy savings for small businesses. HVAC systems contribute to a significant portion of energy costs, and when there is limited time, knowledge, and resources available, it can be a challenge to figure out how to lower those costs. That’s where we come into the picture — we help people find those “aha moments” where a small change like installing a programmable thermostat can make a big difference and really impact their bottom line.
H: How will HVAC bring the One-Stop program to the next level?
M: Lighting and HVAC are good complements in energy conservation — both are major contributors to energy costs and both offer real savings opportunities. The majority of facility managers I’ve met with are really concerned about their energy consumption and how it impacts their business. For small business owners with a lot on their plate, One-Stop provides the extra incentive they sometimes need to take action towards reducing their energy bills. And I think the savings speak for themselves.
H: How are small business owners reacting to this new opportunity so far?
M: Businesses can’t wait to get started, and contractors are excited about the opportunities One-Stop provides to connect with clients and build stronger personal relationships. There are so many different potential HVAC upgrades and utility rebates — my job is to simplify the process and help businesses zone in on what really matters to them. We’re hitting the ground running with an eager lineup of clients who are excited to get going. And as CEE helps businesses save money through both lighting and HVAC improvements, we’re also helping drive Minnesota’s momentum toward rigorous efficiency goals.
One Stop Efficiency Shop® HVAC Program
One Stop Efficiency Shop®
Image Credit: Michael Hicks via CC