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Lighting up energy savings for Michigan small businesses

January 29, 2018

At the Fenton Winery and Brewery in southeast Michigan, staff and bean counters alike are equally brighter—and it’s not the latest batch of vino or seasonal beer making them merry.

“We were delighted with the ease and convenience of the SBAM Energy Solutions program,” says Ginny Sherrow, owner of Fenton Winery and Brewery. “Through the program we were able to get all of our old production lights replaced and upgraded with new LED technology—and not only did our utility pay for the entire retrofit through a locally contracted electrician but our company will now be saving on energy bills for years to come.”

The upgrades came via the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), which offers its members energy services through its partnership with utilities Consumers Energy and DTE Energy. 

The SBAM Energy Solutions program advises businesses on things like availability of energy efficiency programs and provides assistance to set up an energy audit.

“Our hope is to bring the kind of services that large companies have to our small business members, as they think about energy efficiency and saving money on their energy bills,” says SBAM President & CEO Rob Fowler.

Through utility incentives, the lighting upgrades “didn’t cost us anything,” Sherrow says, “and now I’m saving $1,800 a year.”

Sherrow knew that there was an opportunity to save energy and money by replacing the original lighting in their production facility, built in 2000. Like many small business owners, however, financing the upgrades and wading through utility forms were barriers.

“We knew the old lights were eating up a lot of energy,” she says, “but the utility application was extremely daunting. With all the things I have to do in a week, a month—I just didn’t want to deal with it.”

That’s where SBAM came in. Sherrow says she “really trusts them,” and SBAM staff made it so easy. Through the Energy Solutions program, SBAM facilitated everything, from handling the utility paperwork to financing new lights, to meeting with a local electrician.

“We understand small businesses have a lot on their plate,” explains Caile Richards, SBAM Energy Advocate. “Energy is one of the easier costs to control.”

After only two meetings with SBAM and the utility, all that was left for Sherrow was to do a walk through with the electrician. 

“The process is extremely easy,” Richards says. “You get a quote and decide if the project works for you.”
Fenton Winery and Brewery replaced 17 lights with energy-saving LEDs, and is now using 5 fewer lights than before, because the more efficient new lights are so much brighter.

“It’s amazing,” Sherrow says. “Now we have better lighting and are paying less. Next, we’re looking at our outdoor lighting and HVAC systems, to try and take advantage of more opportunities to save.”

Article contributed by Aileo Weinmann. 

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