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A golden opportunity

February 21, 2020

Originally featured in DTE Energy Smarts Magazine

A golden opportunity

DTE and the Small Business Association of Michigan have partnered to save businesses money on energy bills.

Sean Duval, owner of Golden Limousine International, spent the last 28 years growing his business from a two-limousine shop into a service with 34 vehicles and 66 employees. But when Duval moved his growing company to a building in Milan, Michigan, that had housed an automotive dealership, bringing the facility up to date while maintaining excellent service proved a challenge.

Partnering for improvement

The building’s lighting was outdated. Poor lighting made it hard to service and maintain the fleet and caused inefficiencies in running the business. Things looked dim for the new facility until Caile Richards stepped in.

Richards is an energy advocate from the Small Business Association of Michigan. As part of its Energy Solutions program, SBAM partners with DTE and Consumers to provide members with resources to help them become more energy efficient.

Although he had been a member of SBAM for five years, Duval didn’t realize that the program could reduce costs significantly. “It seemed too good to be true,” he said. “Caile’s help was invaluable. He guided us through the process from beginning to end.”

Starting with an energy assessment, Richards explained where and how Duval could save money. The assessment included analyzing current electricity and natural gas usage, inspecting the building envelope, and checking lighting, heating and cooling equipment.

The SBAM Energy Solutions program assists members by finding qualified contractors and identifying available DTE cash-back incentives. And, if needed, SBAM helps find ways to finance projects through nonprofit organizations like Michigan Saves, an organization that makes energy efficiency improvements affordable with low- or no-interest loans.

Thousands saved annually

Updated lighting was a top priority. “The work areas were dark. Our initial solution was to add more fluorescents,” said Duval. “Then Caile suggested we replace our inefficient metal halide and fluorescent lights with LEDs.”

This simple upgrade substantially decreased the amount of energy required for illumination. Energy usage was decreased from 1,000 and 400 watts per light to 50, 150 or 300 watts. Energy bills dropped, and the work area benefitted from improved lighting.

For additional efficiencies, sensors that turn lights on and off as needed were installed. Interior and exterior lighting upgrades provided security for the employees, some of whom work at night. There were financial benefits as well, the company saves $7,615 a year in energy costs.

Incentives reduce costs

DTE incentives totaling $4,282 offset the upfront cost of the renovation. Richards was able to help further by combining a low-interest loan from Michigan Saves and a USDA Rural Energy for America Program grant to finance the project.

“We immediately saw a reduction in our monthly energy bill, and I expect the upgrade to pay for itself in two years,” Duvall said. “I can invest these savings into growing my business. I’ve already recommended the SBAM Energy Solutions program to two other business owners. It’s an amazing deal.” 

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