The idea of efficiency first means that using less energy is always the cheapest and easiest option to move towards a cleaner energy future. Data indicates that spending on energy efficiency very often has a quicker payback than installing PV electric generation.
Look for ways to improve energy efficiency in every aspect of your building and day-to-day operations. Many local utilities have programs to help facility owners identify efficiency opportunities and possibly access rebates for various products or projects. Room for improvement also may exist in building occupants’ behaviors or habits, such as turning lights off at night. Adding occupancy sensors to lights or a programmable thermostat to the heating/cooling system also can help. Energystar.gov and energy.gov provide information about building energy efficiency.
Your organization also may choose to get a professional energy audit if your building is quite large and complex (e.g., commercial refrigeration systems, water treatment pumps or other large, motorized equipment). Professional audits can be costly. Check with your local board members and sustainability community as many energy advisors can provide their services as a donation to the organization. Once efficiency opportunities have been identified, an estimate of how the improvements can potentially lower overall electricity use can be assessed.