When asked to apply to the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant, Joan Pauly, Office of Sustainability Coordinator saw nothing but opportunity for both small businesses and students. Establishing the Berea Center for Energy (BCE) would hit all of the key principles that are considered when we talk about sustainability, “How will this impact our economic, social, and environmental goals?” By creating two internship positions both a technical and marketing opportunity for students, the deal was a perfect fit.
With help from the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) and Midwest Clean Energy Solutions, BCE has been helping small businesses in Eastern, KY receive grants and low interest loans for Energy audits and energy upgrades for the past few years. The Berea interns and professionals utilize REAP grants to help businesses receive needed energy efficient capital investments. Essentially, providing funding opportunities for businesses to implement the energy efficient opportunities identified in the Energy Audit.
A previous client in Neon-Fleming, KY that is the only grocery store for miles in the community, without it it would be considered a food desert. After receiving a subsidized energy audit that recommended upgrading to LED lights and energy efficient coolers, they applied for a REAP grant that helped fund the needed upgrades. Because of the savings from the energy audit they are able to save money, pay their employees better, and keep the price of food low for customers.
During his time in Frankfort, Erick Shyaka (May 2019 Graduate, Economics Major, Data Analyst for the Office of Sustainability) analyzed data from utility data for new BCE customers, and assisted in convincing clients that energy efficiency is worth their consideration. He also analyzed data for to help ensure payback periods for previous clients. “We want to show them it’s worth their time and investment,” said Shyaka explaining why checking up on the business’s progress was important. Data found from past clients is a key persuasion point for many new clients. He found that Whittaker’s IGA would actually get their return sooner than expected reducing their overall electricity costs more than projected.
Kristina Anderson (May 2019 Graduate, Communication Major, Communication and Event Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability) focused most of her efforts on marketing the program to small businesses. She created easy to understand marketing materials, updated the BCE website, spoke one-on-one with potential clients and gave a presentation to an economic development group in Ashland, KY to help recruit clients. “I found that it was really important and took a lot of time to effectively communicate what all the Berea Center for Energy provides small businesses in a way that makes a lot of different elements sound simple and worth their time,” She explained. She also wrote an article on a hotel chain in Frankfort, reporting on their overwhelming success in reducing their electricity costs, reducing one hotel by $100,000 in a year.
BCE provides a vital service for the communities in Appalachia. If you or someone you know are a small business owner in Eastern, KY feel free to reach out on our website: https://www.berea.edu/sustainability/berea-college-center-energy/