Retail energy suppliers often target large businesses and residential customers but focus less on serving small-to-mid-sized businesses. However, energy costs are often a large part of the operating costs of some businesses so exploring energy supply options is important. Luckily, finding a plan that can meet the needs of a small business does not have to be a complex undertaking as small businesses can typically find pre-established retail energy prices online or by calling energy suppliers rather than negotiating complex pricing contracts like large businesses sometimes do.
Common Misconceptions of Small Business Owners
The American Coalition for Competitive Energy Suppliers (ACCES) posted a blog entry discussing three common misconceptions of small business owners about their energy bills. First, many business owners don’t know whether or not they can choose their energy providers. If they live in states with restructured electricity markets like New York, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, and most of the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions, they can choose to shop for better pricing or service than their local utility offers.
Second, business owners often don’t realize the range of options available to them in competitive energy markets. Many retail plans allow customers to lock in fixed prices to help them budget and mitigate risks from rising prices. Other plans offer variable rates that fluctuate with the market. Customers may be able to choose providers that bundle retail energy services with energy efficiency audits and upgrades to HVAC or other equipment, and businesses may be able to choose green energy options to enhance their sustainability.
The third misconception is that retail energy is complex and best left to big businesses. A good retail energy advisor will help to educate small business customers about the options available. The most important – and reasonable – expectation is to find a retail partner that cares about its customers and wants to see them make the best decision to meet their individual needs.
Small Business Survey
According to an article from Greentech Media, based on a survey conducted by Accenture, small business owners are always looking to save money. The Greentech Media article notes that popular services for these businesses include energy audits, distributed generation, energy management tools, and fixed-price energy contracts. According to the Accenture survey of small-to-mid-sized business owners:
- 67% percent would switch energy providers if it would reduce their electricity bills.
- More than 50% have had energy audits.
- 74% will consider generating their own power.
- 41% are interested in energy management tools, such as lighting and HVAC automation.
Accenture also found that there was a trend toward aggregated energy purchasing, and that they are happy to rely on services from both utilities and from other companies like retail suppliers and energy service providers. Finally, the survey discussed the trend toward consumer interest in green business. With 76% of customers reporting that they were more likely to shop at businesses that buy or produce green power, there can be a significant benefit to small business owners who go green.
SBA Energy Efficiency Guides
The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers energy efficiency guides to help eight specific small-to-medium business sectors. The eight sectors include: auto dealers, home improvement contractors, groceries, home-based businesses, lodging, manufacturers, restaurants, and retail stores. The guides provide information that is relevant to the business owners, either to improve the efficiency of their own facilities or of their customers. For example, installing more efficient refrigeration equipment can create major savings for grocery stores. On the other hand, the guide for construction contractors focuses on measures that contractors can install at customers’ homes and businesses, such as insulation and HVAC.