Financing Energy Billing

Top 8 Questions California Businesses Have About Energy Billing and Energy Efficiency

By Megan Porter

Being able to project costs and expenses in both the short and long term is essential to the success of any business. Unfortunately, one of the largest costs for a business, energy, can also be one of the most difficult to anticipate.

Energy prices are among the most volatile expenses a business owner must account for, so being able to avoid extreme peaks and valleys on utility bills is imperative to improving business planning. Effectively managing utility costs is a product of gaining a greater understanding of energy bills and finding ways to reduce energy usage through the use of more efficient products and practices. Ultimately, that process will lead to higher overall profits and less hassle on the operations-side of a business.

Questions about calculating and reducing energy usage for California businesses

Learning how to calculate energy usage and reduce energy usage is often much simpler than it might seem at first. Below are some questions and answers that many California business owners and managers often consider when evaluating energy costs and usage.

1. What are the most important things to look for when assessing an energy bill?
There are several ways to assess an energy bill. The simplest is to compare each month's bill and see where costs might be rising or falling. If costs rise noticeably for reasons that aren't weather- or usage-related, then there might be products and practices that can be implemented to level those rising costs. For example, if heating costs are rising significantly, it could be helpful to check the heating ducts for leaks or assess heating equipment. It might even be necessary to purchase new, more efficient equipment.

PG&E offers its business customers an even more effective method for assessing energy bills with the My Energy tool. Business owners and managers can create an account and compare their business's energy usage to that of other, similar-sized operations. They can also track estimated energy use by type of equipment, get customized energy saving tips and create a customized energy savings plan.

2. What are the various energy billing options available to businesses in Northern California?
Utility companies in California work with the state government to offer businesses a number of ways to manage their utility costs with different billing options. Many of those billing options revolve around time-varying, or Demand Response, initiatives.

Demand Response is designed to lighten the load on California's energy system during peak energy usage times. Energy used during high-demand periods costs more, which incentivizes business owners and managers to use less energy during those events.

Demand Response billing options include:

  • Peak Day Pricing: In return for reduced energy usage during the hottest days of the summer (usually 9-15 days per year), businesses receive discounts on normal summer electricity rates.
  • Time-of-Use Rate Plans: Time-of-use rate plans shift some of the burden from how much energy a business uses to when that energy is used. Electricity rates are higher during peak periods (12pm-6pm, May-October), and lower during all other times.

 

3. How can a business more effectively manage energy costs during peak times?
Load shifting is one of the most effective ways to reduce energy usage during peak times. Load shifting involves moving high-energy-consuming activities to non-peak periods, including turning off computers and other equipment. Other load shifting strategies include holding meetings during peak periods so that energy consumption can be focused in smaller areas during those peaks.

Business owners and managers can learn more about managing energy costs during peak periods through PG&E's My Energy program, or by contacting a PG&E account representative.

4. How can a business flatten out utility costs?
Options like PG&E's Balanced Payment Plan (BPP) are among the most effective way to flatten costs. In a BPP, a business's energy costs are averaged out over a 12-month period, then that information is used to arrive at a balanced monthly payment that remains flat, or nearly flat, throughout the year.

Installing solar and other renewable energy products can also help with flattening out utility costs by easing the burden of dealing with fluctuating energy prices. PG&E also offers Net Energy Metering (NEM) for business customers who use renewables. NEM involves PG&E installing a special meter tha

5. Who can a business owner or manager turn to with energy bill-related questions or concerns, or other questions and concerns to help reduce energy usage?
Useful resources include ENERGY STAR® and the California Energy Commission. Many business owners might also want to seek out professional help from a lighting or HVAC contractor or technician.

PG&E account representatives are also incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, and they can help direct business owners and managers in the finer points of energy bill and energy reduction strategies.

6. How can utility companies help a business reduce energy usage?
Utility companies, including PG&E, help businesses reduce energy usage in many ways, but rebates and incentives are the primary tools available. Rebates are offered after new energy efficient equipment is purchased, and incentives are provided for pre-approved projects that reduce energy usage through more efficient products.

PG&E, in particular, also offers energy efficiency financing, with 0% interest loans of up to $100,000 for businesses that want to replace or retrofit existing equipment with more energy efficient versions.

7. What are some best practices a business can implement to reduce energy usage?
There are myriad ways a business can reduce energy usage through more energy efficient practices. Some of those practices include:

  • Regularly clean light bulbs and fixtures and HVAC equipment (e.g., air filters and condenser coils).
  • Install insulation and regularly check it for leaks.
  • Use daylighting – taking advantage of natural light – whenever and wherever possible.
  • Educate employees about energy saving tips, like turning off lights and other energy consuming products when they are not in use.

 

8. What are the best products a business can implement to reduce energy usage?
There are many products on the market that offer major improvements in energy efficiency. When shopping for these products, always look for the ENERGY STAR label. The ENERGY STAR label can be found on products like LED light bulbs and fixtures, demand control ventilation, refrigerators and freezers, convection ovens, furnaces and water heaters.

To learn more about energy efficiency and other ways to reduce energy usage, download "Insider's Guide to Financing Energy Efficiency Projects"" from PG&E. This guide will provide California businesses with resources on how to project costs and the best way to get started.


Get the answers to the top 8 questions California businesses have about their energy bills and energy efficiency here:
  • SMB Blog Author
    Megan Porter
    Senior Program Marketing Manager at PG&E, is a recognized leader in solutions marketing for small and medium-sized businesses. Megan uses her proven and practical expertise to bring energy efficiency education to businesses in every industry. In this vital role, she develops and oversees highly successful initiatives that result in the adoption of more efficient long-term energy management behaviors.
 

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