This will likely go down as a banner year as the USEPA proposed, for the first time, national standards to limit emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from existing power plants: the Clean Power Plan. However this turns out in terms of the legislative process in Washington, the federal government has certainly provided the signals that clean energy and GHG emission reductions will be important in the US. But how will it affect small business?
While large operations are the focus of many environmental rules and large businesses can afford to take the lead in investing in GHG emission and energy usage reduction strategies, small businesses still represent a significant part of the US economy and of overall energy use. Regulations and incentives must also be tailored to small business for the US to move forward economically, in clean energy, and in climate change. Lacking the resources of a large firm, we must pay attention to small businesses in order for them to be able to invest in, and prosper from, clean energy.
At the same time, small businesses have borne the brunt of impacts of recent extreme storms, potentially influenced by greater heat retention in the atmosphere. An estimated 25% of small to mid-sized businesses do not re-open after a major disaster. And small businesses have fewer resources to invest in safeguarding for an emergency; short-term issues must dictate most decisions. The organization Small Business Majority (www.smallbusinessmajority.org) has polled small business owners to understand their attitudes on clean energy and environmental policies, and indicated that a majority of small business owners are worried about extreme weather events and understand the risk to their bottom lines. A recent white paper from this group highlights these concerns of small businesses and that policies like the Clean Power Plan may be beneficial, as follows:
- Meaningful incentives to reduce GHG emissions to lessen climate risk. This includes maximizing the opportunity to invest in clean energy projects to reduce emissions and energy costs. This will also raise project opportunities for small business in construction, manufacturing, strategizing, and energy efficiency.
- Smart policies to incentivize the upfront costs of improving energy efficiency for long-term energy cost savings. Small Business Majority recommends that states implement targeted energy efficiency education programs for small businesses, subsidize the purchase and installation of energy efficient technologies by small businesses, and partner with utilities and regulators to develop targeted energy assistance programs for vulnerable or at-risk small businesses.
- Smart policies to drive energy innovation opportunities. Small Business Majority supports federal and state policies that will help bolster investment in renewable energy resources and energy efficiency, such as state Renewable Portfolio Standards. Small Business Majority further recommends that states consider allocating more resources towards disaster recovery and risk mitigation plans for small businesses to reduce impacts and improve resiliency and recovery.
Marc Karell is owner of Climate Change & Environmental Services. CCES is a small business itself, and understands the constraints of your resources. We have the experts to help a small or mid-size business strategize to be more energy efficient using maximum outside incentive money and/or low interest loans to save you significant long-term costs with no or minimum upfront payments and provide a good payback and return on investment. We can also advise you on real extreme storm risks and how to cost-effectively plan to lessen them. Contact us at 914-584-6720 or at karell@CCESworld.com.