CHICAGO – Delivering on his Opportunity Returns commitment to help Illinois small businesses reduce their energy costs, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced continued support for the Small Business $mart Energy (SB$E) program, which is a partnership between the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Through SB$E, the School of Architecture, working in alliance with the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium, helps businesses evaluate energy efficiency improvements that will reduce their cost of doing business in Illinois. Many energy efficiency improvements are very cost-effective, both with new construction and rehabilitation projects, but businesses frequently are unaware of their opportunities.
"With utility costs continuing to rise, we want to help small businesses in Illinois lower their energy bills. There are important steps that businesses that are making long-term decisions, from building a new facility to doing a major rehab, can take to lock-in low energy prices by choosing an energy efficient and sustainable design. Through this partnership with the University of Illinois that has established the $mart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC), business owners can get the information they need to make the right choices. This saves money, protects the environment and helps creates more jobs," Gov. Blagojevich said.
The $540,000 Opportunity Returns investment will allow SEDAC to provide businesses free technical assistance. SEDAC is available to provide any business with advice on energy systems, including lighting, heating, ventilating, air conditioning, building envelope, and controls, operations and maintenance activities. SEDAC can also provide information on energy topics, including utility rates, tax credits and incentives in the new federal 2005 Energy Policy Act, and the newly adopted commercial buildings energy code.
The program has more than 100 active clients and has identified combined annual savings of more than $3 million. These savings translate into an average 22 percent rate of return for the recommended investments in energy conservation, or more than $12 million in net present value terms.
"Environmentally sustainable design is a rapidly growing and vital field in architecture today. Energy efficiency plays a major role in this design process. We greatly appreciate the partnership with Gov. Blagojevich to make the $mart Energy Design Assistance Center a reality and to help get the results deployed with real businesses today," said David Chasco, Director of the School of Architecture of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The Small Business $mart Energy Program is designed to improve small business competitiveness through intelligent building design and efficient building components, to support job creation by facilitating new energy efficient fields in the building trades, and to reduce pollution by reducing wasted energy. The program demonstrates that economic development and environmental protection go hand-in-hand.
The program recently provided assistance to professional photographer Jason Lindsey, owner of Perceptive Visions. Mr. Lindsey is revitalizing an old structure in downtown Mahomet and was very concerned with his business’ environmental impact. Smart energy measures recommended by SEDAC include installation of a geothermal heat pump, improved insulation, improved air sealing, and ENERGY STAR® windows, ceiling fans and lighting. Other choices Mr. Lindsey made to reduce his environmental impact include purchasing insulation with recycled components, installing reclaimed wood in floors and walls, and selecting low VOC (volatile organic compounds) wood sealant and paint. Once Lindsey completes his renovation, his utility savings will be more than $3,000 per year.
Mid-Continent Development and Construction Company develops and operates hotel properties in Northern Illinois and Indiana. Recently, Mid-Continent received assistance from SEDAC in the form of a design review for a new Country Inn & Suites Hotel, to be constructed in Tinley Park.
"Based on the SEDAC analysis, we decided to purchase Low-E windows and high-efficiency packaged terminal air conditioners for the hotel," said Alan Rosenzweig, Mid-Continent’s Executive Vice-President. SEDAC estimates that, once the building is constructed, these features will result in energy cost savings of $6,500 per year.
SEDAC performed an energy savings and life cycle cost analysis for the new Letterkraft-Creative Services (LKCS) production facility in LaSalle County. Following consultation with SEDAC staff, LKCS decided to install a geothermal heat pump to help heat and cool their building.
"We researched geoexchange extensively and determined it is not only a clean and green technology that reduces our dependence on oil, but we also found it is a great business decision that will pay giant rewards in the future as gas and oil prices continue to rise," said co-owner and vice president of LKCS, Mark Dudek.
Tan Books in Rockford requested that SEDAC perform an energy analysis of their existing facility. Among the conservation measures recommended were air sealing and sealed combustion infrared heaters. While Tan Books opted for conventional combustion infrared heaters, they have installed the heaters for the majority of their factory floor space. They have also implemented air sealing by installing a door, which acts as an air lock between their main factory floor and a rear loading dock serving their scrap collection operation. SEDAC estimates that these measures will save approximately $45,000 annually and improve the comfort of employees.
Since businesses have different needs, SEDAC has been established as a resource for all businesses to contact for unbiased, free energy advice. SEDAC is available toll free at 1-800-214-7954 or at www.sedac.org. SEDAC will identify energy cost reduction measures and can help identify sources for grants, loans and other incentives, as well as equipment, vendors and contractors. SEDAC publishes an informative newsletter on a monthly basis and maintains its Web site as a reference for business, architects and engineers. SEDAC staff is also available for energy efficiency workshops. SEDAC has recently developed a fact sheet with guidance to businesses that need to rebuild as a result of storm destruction.
"The University of Illinois is not only an institution that provides students with a world-class education, but, through partnership efforts with the Small Business $mart Energy Program, our flagship university can also help local businesses identify important cost-saving measures to improve energy efficiency and the environment," said State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana). "This grant awarded by the governor and DCEO is certainly welcome news for our community."
The Small Business $mart Energy program is one of many energy programs and resources that will be featured at the DCEO Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Peer Exchange at the Hawthorn Suites Hotel & Conference Center today and tomorrow in Champaign. The workshop is designed to foster discussion and sharing of ideas about energy programs for industrial, commercial, residential and government consumers, and the best ways to let these consumers know of the resources available to help them become more energy efficient. Participants include state agencies, federal agencies, Illinois utilities and university researchers that operate energy programs in Illinois.
"Gov. Blagojevich is committed to helping businesses reduce the cost of doing business in Illinois, and one of the best ways of doing that is to reduce energy costs. During a time when every dollar counts, the Small Business $mart Energy (SB$E) program is a great tool that businesses across Illinois can use to truly help their bottom line," said DCEO Director Jack Lavin.
In addition to SB$E, the workshop will feature such DCEO energy programs as Manufacturing Energy Efficiency Program, E-85 Ethanol, Regional Energy Program, and Building Operator Certification. Other topics include: "Addressing Retrofits and Problems in Residential and Commercial Buildings," "Getting Ahead of the Codes," and "Understanding LEED." Ameren Corporation, Commonwealth Edison and the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives will be featured on a panel discussing utility programs. Keynote speakers will address the state of energy in Illinois, as well as federal energy tax incentives under the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
Gov. Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development strategy is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – each with a regional team that is empowered and expected to rapidly respond to opportunities and challenges. Opportunity Returns is about tangible, specific actions to make each region more accessible, more marketable, more entrepreneurial and more attractive to businesses. It is about upgrading the skills of the local workforce, increasing the access to capital, opening new markets, improving infrastructure, and creating and retaining jobs. Opportunity Returns is about successfully partnering with companies and communities, both large and small, to help all of Illinois reach its economic potential.