VIEO program specialist Miguel Quinones
St. John business owners heard about the V.I. Energy Office’s latest incentive program at a meeting of the St. John Chapter of the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday evening, October 25, at the Cruz Bay Battery.
VIEO program specialist Miguel Quinones shared details of the new Worthwhile Investments Save Energy (WISE) program with about 10 chamber chapter members at last week’s meeting. The WISE program offers grants covering up to 40 percent of the cost for businesses implementing energy efficiency improvements, explained Quinones.
“We’re trying to provide financial, technical and implementation incentives for local businesses to reduce energy consumption,” said Quinones. “Local businesses in many instances are restrained by their energy expenditures which can cost up to 60 percent of the business costs.”
“It’s really hard to make a profit if 60 percent of your revenue is going to pay energy costs,” he said. “Many businesses are on the verge of closing because their energy bills are too high. We’re looking at impacting that as much as possible by reducing energy consumption.”
Any business which is located in a commercial building — either owners of the building or long-term lease holders — which uses less than 30,000 kWh per moth is eligible for the WISE program. Interested customers must first complete an application form and submit documentation, including gas and electric bills and business licenses. If the customer is approved, VIEO will send a representative of Quality Electric Supply — the sole contractor for the program — to conduct an energy assessment.
The assessment will look at areas the business can reduce its energy consumption like replacing windows or air conditioners, upgrading light fixtures and installing water saving devices, explained Quinones.
“You must get at least 15 percent savings in electricity, but you can get more,” he said. “The grant is limited to 40 percent of the cost of improvements and is capped at $80,000.”
Once the assessment is complete, the customer has 30 days to decide whether to move forward with the energy saving projects. If the customer decides to implement the energy saving projects, Quality Electric Supply will install the improvements.
“We are restricted to using one contractor, Quality Electric Supply, to ensure the quality of the products and the installation of those products,” said Quinones.
Once the projects are complete, VIEO officials will monitor the business to determine its energy savings and the customer will receive 40 percent of the cost of the improvements.
“Basically the program will allow businesses to do energy conservation projects at a 40 percent discount,” said Quinones.
VIEO is also working with local banks and the Small Business Development Agency to help secure loans for small businesses which do not have the capital to invest in energy saving projects, even with the 40 percent discount.
“If you are in a desperate position to save energy in order to make the business more profitable there are loans available for that,” he said.
The grant program, which is available on a first come, first served basis, will run through 2013 and VIEO already has about $140,000 in projects currently under consideration, Quinones explained.
“We are working on a second round of financing to be in place within a few weeks,” he said.
The WISE program falls in line with the inter-agency goal of reducing the territory’s dependence on fossil fuels by 60 percent by 2025, Quinones added.
“We are working with WAPA to try to get to that significant goal in a number of ways,” he said. “We’re looking at utility scale solar power and wind power, capping the landfill and using the gas to run turbines, connecting with Puerto Rico, changing street lights to LED and more. These are just some of the things we are working on.”
“This all adds up to 60 percent by 2025, but we don’t want to wait until then to make changes,” said Quinones.
The VIEO official urged residents to implement energy efficient projects along with exploring renewable energy options.
“The approach we are suggesting for businesses, residents and government agencies is that energy efficient investments are cheaper than renewable energy,” said Quinones. “We don’t discourage people using renewable energy, but it’s important to do both. First you lower your WAPA bill with energy efficient projects and then you implement renewable energy.”
For more information about WISE or VIEO’s other programs and incentives, check out www.vienergy.org or call Quinones at 714-8436, ext. 4305.