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Energy Upgrade Program Revitalizing Oregon

May 28, 2010 - 2:38pm


'Main streets' in Clackamas County, Oregon, are undergoing a makeover – an energy-efficiency makeover.

As part of the Clackamas County Energy Efficiency on Main Street Program, local businesses in 13 communities are getting energy makeovers in an effort to help business owners save hundreds of dollars each year and revitalize downtown areas.

First to save

The program needed a guinea pig to be the first to receive a free energy audit and found a willing participant in Key Carpets, a Molalla-based store co-owned by Deborah Rogge. The demonstration attracted attention — Jamie Johnk, the program’s coordinator, estimates between 50 and 65 Clackamas County businesses will participate before the program wraps up in June 2012.

Through the program, Clackamas County is offering grants of up to $500 for small energy-efficiency upgrades, such as lighting retrofits, and up to $5,000 grants for larger projects, like insulation or energy-efficient restaurant equipment upgrades. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The program tapped nonprofit Energy Trust of Oregon  to provide free energy audits for the participating businesses.

Two-year payback

When the energy upgrades are installed at Key Carpets, Rogge's out-of-pocket costs for retrofits will be around $1,000 after the grant money and tax incentives are applied. However, the energy auditors also predict that her annual savings, mostly a result of switching to energy-efficient lighting, will be about $760, meaning the upgrades will pay for themselves in less than two years.

“It just makes good business sense,” she says. “Anything I can do green and energy-efficiency related for my business I want to try to do.” Rogge plans to look into solar panel installation and recycled carpets in the future.

By leveraging the free energy assessments, the county is able to apply all grant funds directly to the recommended upgrades. The businesses provide the county with their past 12 months’ utility bills and then measure their savings after the upgrades via an online tool.