Helping Small Businesses Save Energy

Helping Small Businesses Save Energy

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Ontario’s Five-Point Small Business Energy Savings Plan

Significant strides have been made in transforming Ontario’s electricity system into one that is clean, reliable and affordable.  Since 2003, more than $30 billion has been invested in cleaner generation and in 2014, Ontario completely eliminated coal from the electricity system. Ontario’s Conservation First policy and other government decisions are helping consumers manage electricity costs as efforts continue to make rate mitigation a priority.

The Ontario government also recognizes the importance of small and medium sized businesses to workers and families, communities and our province’s economy as a whole. That’s why it provides a range of programs and services to help businesses succeed and thrive — including options for managing energy costs for a better bottom line.

More than of 99% Ontario’s businesses are small and medium-sized. These companies are growing: from 2013 to 2014 employment in this sector increased by 38,400 jobs. Last year, they employed almost five million people in communities across the province. Small and medium sized businesses also account for a large amount of Ontario’s exports, in fact in 2009, they totaled close to 40% of the province’s exports.

Ontario provides many opportunities for businesses to reduce energy usage, save money and take advantage of programs. Businesses can consider becoming energy generators to mitigate their energy costs through programs such as the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) and net metering programs.

The FIT Program allows eligible participants, including business owners, to generate renewable energy and sell it to the province. In 2014, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) made more than 800 FIT Program contract offers to participants, representing enough energy to power 29,000 homes.

Net metering is currently available to all electricity customers who wish to generate electricity primarily for their own use. Under a net metering arrangement, customers send electricity generated from a renewable source to the electrical grid for a credit towards their electricity bill.  Ontario is currently exploring a transition of the microFIT program, which is targeted to small-scale generators, to a successor net metering program.

Most important, however, is Ontario’s policy of Conservation First. As the province plans for its energy needs for the next 20 years, conservation will be the first resource considered. It is the cleanest and most cost-effective energy resource; it offers consumers a way to reduce their energy bills, and it reduces the need to build expensive new generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure.

To help Ontario’s small businesses become more energy efficient, manage costs and save money, the province has developed the Five-Point Small Business Energy Savings Plan. The plan is:

  • Promoting the use of energy managers, who can perform assessments and help businesses develop and carry out energy-efficiency and conservation projects.  An energy manager can assist in building a business case to invest in energy-efficiency projects by identifying expected energy savings and the payback period of a project.
  • Marketing business conservation programs, which include incentives for energy audits, retrofits and lighting replacement.  The marketing strategy includes working with key partners to reach out to small businesses, such as Chambers of Commerce, Business Improvement Associations and local economic development offices.
  • Enhancing business conservation programs, with increased rebates, more contractor engagement and training and a simplified application process.
  • Working to make on-bill financing available, to help small businesses finance the upfront costs of energy conservation projects.
  • Providing Long-Term Stable Funding for conservation initiatives. To ensure conservation incentives continue to be available for small businesses, another six years of funding is being made available through the new Conservation First Framework (2015 – 2020) to support the delivery of electricity conservation programs and the new Demand Side Management (DSM) Framework (2015-2020) to support the delivery of natural gas conservation programs. Targeted programs for small businesses are being made available under the new frameworks.

Small Business Energy Usage

For Ontario’s small businesses, most energy use goes to space heating, auxiliary equipment, water heating and lighting.

Pie chart: small business energy usage

Type of Energy Use Percentage of Total Energy Usage
Space Heating 43%
Water Heating 9%
Auxiliary Equipment 22%
Auxiliary Motors 7%
Lighting 10%
Space Cooling 9%

Source: NRCan 2012, Office of Energy Efficiency, National Energy Use Database

Note: Includes electricity and natural gas, as well as other fuels.
Energy use varies substantially by type of establishment (e.g., retail, food/grocery, office, etc.).

Ways to Conserve Energy and Reduce Your Energy Cost

From simple and cost-free behavioural changes to large-scale energy efficiency projects, there are many ways for businesses to save energy and money.

Behavioural changes

Behavioural changes can help a business save about 3 percent of its energy consumption.

  • Create an energy management champion.  Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms. Ensure staff and facility operators are trained on lights, temperature control, and water use to reduce energy costs.
  • Where you have building automation systems, savings can be achieved through proper set points on boilers, chillers, rooftop units / unitary AC systems and lighting schedules.
  • Use outdoor lighting only when necessary.
  • Close blinds during summer to create shade and keep your workplace cooler.
  • Lower the temperature of hot water tanks within recommended range.
  • Minimize the use of hot and warm water.
  • Maintain the proper temperature in freezers and refrigerators.
  • Install and maintain weather stripping.
  • Check and change furnace and air conditioner filters on a monthly basis.
  • Where applicable, unplug appliances at night and when not in use for an extended period of time to avoid phantom energy consumption.

Appliance and Equipment Upgrades

Appliance and equipment upgrades can significantly reduce energy use and costs.

  • Upgrade fans and motors on heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment to decrease energy costs.  Efficient motors can use up to 4% less energy than standard motors.
  • Upgrade display refrigeration / freezers to models that have doors as well as high efficiency condensers and evaporators.
  • Modernize manufacturing lines and mechanical equipment by upgrading compressors, pumps, heaters, conveyors, chillers, boilers, etc.
  • Upgrade to LED lighting to shorten payback periods, reduce maintenance costs, and cut operating costs. LED lighting uses 75% less energy than incandescent lighting.
  • Replace computers and business technology, kitchen equipment and air conditioners with energy efficient models.

Building Enhancements

Building enhancements are another effective way to further reduce energy costs.

  • Upgrade building insulation and insulate hot water tanks and pipes.
  • Use occupancy sensors in rooms that are used infrequently such as lunchrooms, boardrooms and restrooms. You can reduce lighting costs by up to 70 percent.
  • Add daylight sensors to outdoor light systems.
  • Install and use programmable thermostats for heating and air conditioning to automatically control temperature settings and save 10% to 70% on heating and cooling costs.
  • Keep computers on standby and set up computer equipment with smart power bars. Computers are only used on average 10% of the time they are turned on.
  • Use high-velocity, low-flow kitchen sprayers and save up to $1,000 a year in hot water costs.

Ontario’s saveONenergy for Business Incentives

The saveONenergy for Business electricity conservation program, made available through local distribution companies, with the support of the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), offers financial incentives to help small businesses with the costs of installing energy-efficient equipment and improving the energy efficiency of their buildings.

saveONenergy For Business Programs

Audit Funding

An energy audit is the first step in understanding how energy is being used in your building. This will help to identify opportunities to reduce operating costs and improve performance.

Business customers are eligible for incentives to complete energy audits assessing the potential for energy savings through equipment replacement and operational practices.

The Audit Funding incentive is intended to cover up to 50% of the cost of an energy audit.

Small Business Lighting

Under the Small Business Lighting program, qualifying businesses can get the first $1,500 in lighting upgrades free.  The incentive will increase in 2016.

Further upgrades to lighting, heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC), and other systems can qualify for financial incentives worth up to 50% of project costs.

Retrofit Program

The Retrofit Program helps businesses install and benefit from newer, more energy-efficient solutions, allowing  them  to operate more efficiently and improve their bottom line.

Incentives are available for high-efficiency equipment such as lighting, motors and heating, and for installing new control systems to improve the overall efficiency of buildings.

Energy Managers

Starting in 2016, various energy manager initiatives will be available to assist small businesses.

Where available, these resources will be offered to small businesses free of charge to help identify energy-efficiency opportunities, develop energy management plans and complete saveONenergy incentive applications.  Interested small businesses should contact their local distribution company for availability.

On a provincial level, the IESO will be offering incentives for energy managers with a sector/regional focus, of which small business may be included.

To find out more and to participate in saveONenergy programs, visit or contact your local distribution company.

Disclaimer: Incentive levels and eligible technologies and measures are subject to change.

Electricity Savings Success Stories

Success Story: Small Business Lighting

Lee’s Dundas Pharmacy Feels Much Better After Dropping Energy Costs by 30 Per Cent
A lighting upgrade using financial incentives provided through the saveONenergy program allowed Lee’s Dundas Pharmacy to improve the quality of the store lighting while reducing electricity costs by 30%.

“We now have much better and brighter light, much cleaner light…And the electricity cost savings have been equally impressive.”

— Dipak Mistry, Pharmacist/owner at Dundas Pharmacy

Projects details:

  • Annual savings: $900
  • Incentive: $1,000
  • Project Cost: $2,500

Success Story: Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

HVAC Upgrades Cut Energy Costs by $100,000 and Improve Employee Comfort
Representing between 25% to 70% of the monthly electricity consumption for most non-industrial buildings, HVAC system improvements can offer great potential for energy savings. Leveraging more than $135,000 in financial incentives received through the saveONenergy program, Arbor Memorial was able to “green” its Toronto-based head office by upgrading its energy-intensive HVAC systems, reducing its overall energy costs by $100,000 annually. Moreover, the energy-efficiency measures resulted in greater tenant comfort and offered a payback period of just two-and-a-half years.

“The opportunity to achieve greater operational efficiency, which resulted in cost savings while enhancing green commitment, was important to Arbor Memorial.”

— Rob Colbourne, Building Manager, Arbor Memorial

Project details:

  • 740,623 kWh estimated energy savings per year
  • 271% lifetime ROI
  • 2.42 year payback period
  • Annual estimated savings: $100,000
  • Savings over the 10 year equipment life: $665,270
  • Project cost: $315,400
  • $135,600 Total incentives received

Success Story: Compressors

Auto Parts Maker Drives Electricity Savings by Updating Air Compressor Systems
Windsor based Kautex Textron is a supplier of blow moulded auto parts to the vehicle makers of Ontario. If you own a Canadian-made vehicle, chances are it has a few components, such as plastic multi-layer fuel tanks and clear vision systems that were made by the 200 dedicated workers at Kautex.

“The saveONenergy program allowed us to upgrade our equipment and save money on electricity for this project to pay for itself within a year.”

— Andrew Carroll, Technology Manager at Kautex Textron

Project details:

  • Energy savings 1,677,300 kWh
  • Annual electricity cost savings: $168,000
  • Payback within a year with incentive
  • Incentive $71,637

Natural Gas Conservation Programs

Ontario’s two largest natural gas utilities, Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas, offer their small business customers incentives to install energy-efficient equipment and improve the energy efficiency of their buildings.

They provide free services and financial incentives designed to help their customers make the most of the energy they consume. Enbridge and Union Gas will work with their customers to design a solution that meets their customers’ energy needs and financial objectives.

Union Gas Energy Savings Programs

Custom and Fixed Retrofit Incentives

Incentives are available for efficient building equipment and systems retrofits such as space heating, water heating and food services.

Space Heating

Incentives are available for:

  • Air Curtains
  • Condensing Boilers
  • Condensing Rooftop Make-up Air Units
  • Demand Control Ventilation Systems
  • Destratification Fans
  • Energy and Heat Recovery Ventilators
  • Infrared Heaters
Water Heating Programs

Incentives are available for:

  • Condensing Boilers
  • Condensing Gas Water Heater
  • Energy Star Dishwasher
  • Ozone Laundry
Food Services Equipment

Incentives are available for:

  • Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation
  • Energy Star Fryer

Runsmart Building Optimization

Union Gas will provide an incentive to customers for the successful implementation of low-cost/no-cost energy saving measures and activities that optimize a building’s energy use.

RunSmart Building Optimization will help to:

  • Improve a building’s overall performance by identifying low-cost building maintenance and operational efficiency improvements
  • Reduce operating costs while extending equipment life
  • Reduce natural gas usage

Visit Union Gas’ business website and click on Save Money & Energy where you can learn more about:

  • Energy saving incentive programs – rebates and incentives for space heating, water heating and cooking equipment
  • Types of natural gas equipment and usages
  • Locating a Service Provider in your area
  • Application forms for our energy savings programs

Disclaimer: Incentive levels and eligible technologies and measures are subject to change.

Natural Gas Savings Success Stories

Success Story: Improving Ventilation Efficiency (Union Gas)

Giant Tiger improves ventilation and cuts natural gas usage by 30%
In an era of rising costs and competition, budget retailer Giant Tiger is always looking for ways to cut operating expenses. At their location in Belleville, Ontario, rooftop ventilators were working overtime, running 24/7 to heat or cool the building long after business hours. This value-driven Union Gas customer was highly motivated to find a way to cut overall space heating and cooling costs. Because the new ventilation units are not running as frequently, Giant Tiger can bank on a longer life expectancy for their heating and cooling equipment, as well as ongoing energy savings long after the upgrade paid for itself. This retrofit helped Giant Tiger save 6,000 m3 in natural gas annually and reduce annual natural gas costs by $1,500.

Enbridge Gas Energy Savings Programs

Custom and Fixed Retrofit Incentives

Incentives are available for efficient building equipment and systems retrofits such as space heating, water heating and food services.

Space Heating
  • Demand Control Ventilation
  • Condensing Boilers
  • High-Efficiency Boilers
  • Air Doors
  • Energy Recovery Ventilation
  • Heat Recovery Ventilation
  • Infrared Heaters
  • Condensing Make-Up Air Units
Water Heating
  • Ozone Laundry Systems
  • Showerheads
Food Services Equipment
  • Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation System
  • ENERGY STAR® Qualified Dishwashers
  • ENERGY STAR® Qualified Natural Gas Convection Ovens – full size
  • ENERGY STAR® Qualified Natural Gas Fryers


The RunitRight program analyzes a building’s energy performance in three simple steps to identify, implement and monitor low- and no-cost operational improvements that can lead to up to five per cent energy savings.

Energy Compass

A free benchmarking diagnostic service to help identify opportunities for capital and operational energy efficiency improvements in commercial buildings.

An Energy Compass report will:

  • Provide recommendations for capital and operational improvements.
  • Compare the energy performance of buildings in your portfolio.
  • Identify buildings with higher-than-average natural gas consumption.
  • Identify applicable Enbridge financial incentives that can offset the cost of making recommended energy-efficiency improvements.

Unlike other incentives that require installing new equipment, Enbridge’s RunitRight program helps to enhance existing building systems and operations to find energy efficiencies.

To find out if your business is eligible, contact an Enbridge Energy Solutions Consultant (ESC).  The ESC can help you with:

  • Energy efficiency planning
  • Equipment replacement advice
  • Reliable energy solutions
  • Program support and technical expertise
  • Identification of financial incentives
  • Introduction to independent business partners

Email or visit

Disclaimer: Incentive levels and eligible technologies and measures are subject to change.

Success Story: Maximizing Boiler Efficiency (Enbridge)

Gourmet food maker saved 27,230 m3 of natural gas annually
Tiffany Gate FreshFood SystemsTM, a Toronto-based manufacturer of gourmet salads and prepared foods for supermarkets, worked with Enbridge’s team of experts to install cost savings adjustments to its boiler system. By participating in the project, Tiffany Gate benefitted with natural gas savings of 27,230 m3 per year and annual bill savings of over $5,000. Tiffany Gate also received an Enbridge incentive of about $1,500 towards the project.

Electric and natural gas utilities are ready to help small businesses find conservation opportunities.

Renewable Energy Opportunities for Small Businesses

Renewable energy projects create new, high-value jobs and provide economic benefits and opportunities for municipalities and local businesses. Ontario supports the development of small-scale renewable energy through the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program, which is administered by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), and through the net metering program, administered by local distribution companies with support of the Ontario Energy Board (OEB).

Launched in 2009, the FIT program offers participants – such as small businesses – stable prices under fixed-term contracts for energy generated from renewable sources, including bioenergy, wind, solar photovoltaic and waterpower.

Under the FIT program, participants are paid a guaranteed price over a 20-year term (40 years for waterpower projects) for the electricity a project produces and delivers to the province’s electricity grid.

FIT prices are designed to cover typical project costs and provide participants with a reasonable rate of return on their investment over the term of the contract.

The FIT program offers two participation streams: the microFIT program for projects up to 10 kilowatts (kW) in size, and the FIT program for projects between 10 kW and 500 kW. Between 2013 and 2018, approximately 900 megawatts (MW) of new capacity will be made available for the FIT and microFIT programs.

Since microFIT is for projects that are 10 kW or less in size and projects are restricted to one per individual, small businesses are more likely to find value in pursuing renewable energy projects under the FIT program.

The FIT program is open to a variety of participants, including small businesses, co-operatives, and commercial entities and is designed for projects larger than 10 kW and generally up to 500 kW, such as rooftop solar systems.

As a standard offer program, FIT provides a standardized price, contract term, and program rules that apply to all participants. FIT prices are the amount paid per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity delivered to the grid under a FIT contract.

The IESO opens the FIT program to applications on a regular basis, with the submission window typically lasting one month. The IESO then reviews all applications for eligibility and the ability to connect to the grid, before contracts are offered.

For more information about the FIT program, including upcoming application periods and current FIT prices, please visit the IESO’s webpage.

Obtaining an electricity generation contract from the IESO is only one step in the process of getting a renewable energy project built and connected to the grid. Developers must also obtain the required regulatory approvals and any other necessary permits before they can start construction on a project. Renewable energy projects can be subject to a variety of approvals and permits, depending on project type, size and complexity.

For more information on environmental approvals for renewable energy projects please visit the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s website.

Mapleton’s Organic Dairy: Harnessing the Energy of the Sun to Make Ice Cream

Mapleton’s Organic Dairy farm is located south east of Palmerston in Wellington County, Ontario. Established in 1980, the farm employs eight full-time staff, as well as six seasonal staff. The farm converted to organic production in the 1990s and produces organic ice cream that is sold across Canada, as well as yogurt and other products sold across Ontario.

The owner of Mapleton’s Organic Dairy, Martin de Groot, says they’re “always striving to produce [their] ice cream with as little impact as possible.” Recently, this has extended to include investments in renewable energy under Ontario’s FIT program.

In 2013, the farm was awarded a FIT 2.0 contract, and in March 2015 3G Energy completed the installation of a 320 kilowatt (kW) rooftop solar system comprised of Ontario-manufactured components.

The rooftop system includes 1,254 solar panels, each weighing 23 kilograms, installed across two barns, a drive shed and a hay shed. The project took approximately two and half years to complete and is connected to an electrical grid only 900 metres away.

Mr. de Groot says, “with the solar panels in place we not only generate enough renewable energy to equal what we consume, there is also excess energy being created.” The farm has the ultimate goal of becoming totally energy independent.

Mr. de Groot invited a co-operative of local investors from Kitchener, known as Life Solar JV to own 15 percent of the project.

Ontario’s Net Metering Program

Ontario’s net metering regulation, passed in 2005, is available to any Ontario customer who generates electricity primarily for their own use and from a renewable source (including bioenergy, wind, solar photovoltaic and waterpower, as with the FIT Program) using equipment of maximum cumulative capacity up to 500 kilowatts in size.

Net metering is a billing arrangement whereby customers can send electricity generated from renewable sources to the electrical grid for a credit towards their electricity bill. The customer’s local distribution company will subtract the value of electricity supplied to the grid from the value of what is taken from the grid over a billing period. If a customer supplies power that is worth more than what they take from the grid over the billing period, they will receive a credit that they can carry over to help lower future electricity bills.

Please contact your local distribution company to find out more about net metering. They can provide details about the technical requirements, the approval process, and how to obtain a net metering agreement.

Ontario is currently exploring the transition of the microFIT program to a successor net metering program.

For More Information

For small business owners interested in developing renewable energy projects, the province has established the Renewable Energy Facilitation Office (REFO) as a resource for individuals to obtain more information on renewable energy project development and to connect with the appropriate government and agency resources.

REFO advisors can be reached by e-mail at and by telephone at 1-877-440-REFO (7336) or 416-212-6582.

The Ministry of Energy has recently updated its guide for municipalities, entitled “Renewable Energy Development in Ontario: A Guide for Municipalities“. This updated guide provides general project development information, as well as descriptions of the FIT and microFIT programs and the regulatory approval requirements for renewable energy projects.

For information about net metering, please contact your local distribution company.

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