Energy efficiency: Corporate America's gold nugget

Lots of keystrokes are being devoted to the expected slowing of the clean-energy movement as subsidies wind down and an austerity ideology grabs hold. We talk about that in this blog, but "clean energy" is an expansive term, and there are portions that continue to be strongly embraced.

Energy efficiency is one.

That is a theme that Republicans and Democrats can share. Isn't saving money a bipartisan goal? Our nonprofit sees it every day through a partnership with local governments. Some of those cash-strapped cities are savings thousands of dollars through lighting retrofits and other energy-efficient upgrades that we help implement.

The same script can be applied to businesses. Corporations are increasingly waking up to the real attraction of conserving energy: Reduced power bills. A relatively small investment up front (some of which is often recovered through rebates) yields a much bigger return later.

This story in Finance & Commerce out of Minnesota gets to heart of the matter. Note these comments from Dan Thiede of Clean Energy Resource Team, a private/public partnership devoted to clean energy: "A lot of lighting projects can pay for themselves quickly, especially if you get rebates — sometimes two years or less.”

Energy efficiency doesn't carry the allure of solar or wind energy, but the energy and financial savings can be substantial, and businesses and homeowners that realize them might think they've stumbled upon some gold nuggets. I calculate a 9% return in this post.

My colleague, Mike Nemeth, writes about the gold (and one of my favorite old movies) of clean energy in this post, which is mostly about solar and energy independence. Corporations also find gold from their energy efficiency and sustainability efforts, or by opening new lines of business.

Panasonic thinks it can make money off the increasing interest in efficiency and solar, and launched a business unit to capitalize. Read more here. SuperValu finds, well, value in energy-efficiency (and sustainability). The company noted its sustainability program was a money maker. More on that here.

Profit. That's something any business supports. As Carl Nelson, program and policy manager at a Minnesota nonprofit put it in Finance & Commerce: “Business owners are always interested in saving money. That’s still the primary driver.”