It’s been underway since June, but a free program to help small businesses, particularly restaurants, identify ways of reducing energy consumption and find grants to help pay for that work has had its official launch in Kelowna.
The Thompson Okanagan Business Energy Advisor Program provides two energy advisors who go to a business, identify ways of reducing energy costs, explain what grants are available and write a report for the business, all free of charge.
The program is part of a $15-million funding plan by the province that includes other programs to help address climate change issues as well.
According to Darrell Eason, one of the two Kelowna-based program advisors with Green Step, the company contracted to provide the services, the aim is to help 300 small businesses, 150 of which have to be restaurants. “It’s all about planning for the future,” said Eason, adding if any company is considering a refit, or replacing large pieces of equipment, it should contact the program first. To have an advisor do a report is free and there is no requirement to follow through with any of the work recommended.
According to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, one of the biggest barriers for small business addressing the issue of climate change has been cost.
Eason said there are a wealth of grants available to help businesses, everything from one-to-one exchange programs for the replacement of light bulbs to grants of $1,500 to $9,500 for vent hood in restaurants and up to $15,000 for commercial boilers.
A company that has already been working with GreenStep to reduce its energy costs is Kelowna-based Prestige Hotels and Resorts, a chain of 12 hotels in smaller communities across the B.C. Interior that hopes to have all its hotels assessed by the end of October.
Sonu Murphy, director of corporate services for Prestige Hotels, said her hotels have found their customers are now looking for greener alternatives and the accommodation industry as a whole is now addressing that.
One of the first things the hotel chain did was discover that by unplugging fridges in rooms that were not being used, it could save $20,000 per year in energy costs across the 160 rooms they have in their hotels.
“Making a relatively small change can make a big difference,” she said.
The program also won praise from the president and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant and Food Services Association, Ian Tostenson, who said he hopes the work in the Thompson and Okanagan leads the way for a provincial program. “The program offers business cost-effective solutions to the challenges of increasing energy costs and increased demand from the public for environmental stewardship,” said Tostenson.