Managing Energy Use with Demand-Side Management

Managing Energy Use with Demand-Side Management

July 30, 2019

Demand-side management (DSM) strategies can help Green Businesses achieve their certification but sorting through the various DSM options can be overwhelming. Through its AutoDR workforce development project, the Center for Sustainable Energy is here to offer free technical support!

What is DSM?

DSM refers to reducing your current energy use through manual or automated means. Utilities typically offer programs and incentives for demand response (DR) and automated demand response (AutoDR) which are aimed at reducing energy consumption when demand is high. DR activities can be as simple as turning down excess lighting during a DR event. An AutoDR system can do this automatically when utilities request.

Benefits of DSM

Implementing DSM strategies can provide multiple benefits to customers and the grid including

  • Lower utility bills
  • Reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Financial incentives
  • Reduced dependence on polluting peaker plants 
  • Increased grid reliability

DSM programs and incentives

Programs like Peak Day Pricing, Capacity Bidding Programs and Time of Use reward customers for using clean power when it is most plentiful and fro reducing their use during peak periods. PG&E and SCE customers may also be eligible for DR/AutoDR incentives to cover technology installation costs. These incentive programs include:

DSM for small businesses

DR?AutoDR technology may not be feasible for small and micro-businesses. However, there are low-cost DSM strategies that don’t involve installing technology such as 

  • Unplugging appliances when not in use 
  • Turning off unnecessary interior/exterior lighting, signage and equipment
  • Shifting energy usage to different times of the day where possible

Free support from the Center of Sustainability (CSE)

Through CSE’s AutoDR workforce development project, CSE and its partners provide support to small and medium businesses interested in participating in DSM programs by helping select the DSM strategy best suited to its size, energy demand, and operations.

Businesses: For businesses well-suited for AutoDR, CSE can work with the business to determine which program and incentives are best, connect the business to qualifies electrical contractors and provide assistance to the contractor during installation.

California Green Business Network (CAGBN): CSE also supports CAGBN coordinators and can help prepare for a DSM conversation, identify technical assistance opportunities and answer questions about DR and DSM strategies. 

Further resources and support  

CSE recently partnered with CAGBN to host a webinar that covers DR, AutoDR, and how these strategies can help green businesses achieve their Green Business certification from CAGBN. View webinar recording on YouTube 

For further questions and support contact Kelsey Albers Zitos (Senior Coordinator, CSE): 

4 Ways to Finance Your Sustainability Projects

4 Ways to Finance Your Sustainability Projects

April 11, 2019

Picture this: Joe owns and operates a popular taco shop. For years, he purchased single-use plates, cups, and cutlery for his dine-in and take-out customers alike.

Initially, these disposable items seemed inexpensive and convenient, but, more and more, Joe has realized that they have their downsides too. Namely, the build-up of trash surrounding his taco shop.

The disposable foodware he distributes each day has become a noticeable source of litter on the streets and sidewalks encircling his business. There is no question, in Joe’s mind, that this practice—the lavish use of disposable foodware—has negative consequences for his business, his beloved community, and beyond.

Not only does his restaurant contribute to both landfills locally and ocean waste internationally, but, in addition, Joe is paying his waste hauler a lot of money, month after month, to “take care of” that overflowing dumpster behind his restaurant.

So, what can Joe do to improve his environmental footprint, profit margins, and customer loyalty?

It’s simple, really. Joe’s should implement the following measures:

Replace all disposable foodware with durable reusables
Replace old dishwashing equipment and pre-rinse spray nozzles with ENERGY STAR certified equipment
Install bulk napkin and condiment dispensers and eliminate individual packets
Incentivize customers to bring their own containers
By taking these steps, Joe is convinced that he can reduce his waste flow by up to 30% and save thousands of dollars in annual waste hauler fees. But, given Joe’s current financial situation, the initial cost of those changes seems like an insurmountable hurdle.

What can Joe (and other business owners like him) do to phase in capital-intensive investments in equipment upgrades?

On-Bill Financing Programs
On-bill financing helps property owners pay for energy-efficient upgrades through their utility bill. It allows the utility to incur the initial cost of the upgrade, and the utility customer to repay that loan through their monthly utility bill.

On-bill programs have been made available by U.S. utilities for years. In fact, the four major utilities in California (San Diego Gas & Electric, SoCalGas, SoCal Edison, and Pacific Gas & Electric) all offer on-bill financing programs for commercial customers.

There are numerous factors to consider when borrowing funds, but here is a brief summary of the advantages associated with borrowing from your utility:

You already have a billing relationship with your utility, which means they have access to your energy usage patterns and payment history.
Many on-bill programs require “bill neutrality,” which stipulates that savings from the improvements in question must equal or exceed the monthly loan repayments.
Those two advantages of on-bill financing can open up doors for capital-constrained companies looking to capitalize on the many benefits of energy-efficiency. For a more complete picture of the opportunities and pitfalls associated with on-bill financing programs, please visit the U.S. Department of Energy or the National Resources Defense Council

California Hub for Energy Efficiency Financing (CHEEF) Pilot Programs
The California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA), housed under the California State Treasure’s Office, provides financing solutions for businesses and households to facilitate the deployment of energy-efficiency equipment.

In 2019, CAEATFA is launching commercial energy-efficiency financing mechanisms targeted at small businesses and non-profits that meet one of the following requirements:

Fewer than 100 employees
Annual revenues of less than $15 million
Meet SBA small business size-requirements
This Small Business loan program includes the following features and benefits:

Credit enhancement that allows lenders to offer attractive financing terms
Both building owners and building tenants are eligible
Broad list of energy efficiency projects qualify for financing
Flexible financing allows up to 30% of the financed amount to fund non-energy efficiency improvements
According to GoGreen Financing, the public-facing platform of CHEEF, qualifying projects must meet the following requirements:

“At least 70% of the credit-enhanced financed amount must be Energy Savings Measures or demand response. Up to 30% of the credit-enhanced financed amount may fund non-energy efficiency improvements. Financing for distributed generation (DG) improvements, like solar photovoltaic (PV), may be included, but this portion of the financing will not be credit-enhanced.”

For more information on CAEATFA’s Small Business Energy Efficiency Financing program, please visit the website of the California State Treasurer’s Office,GoGreen Financing, or contact Jonathan Verhoef at

Opportunity Fund Community Development
It is often the case that energy-efficiency financing mechanisms require that the price tag of the upgrade (to be funded) exceed $5,000. If you’re pursuing a less expensive upgrade, however, you may want to consider engaging a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI).

One such institution is the Opportunity Fund. The Opportunity Fund is a nonprofit organization, based in California, that invests in small business owners and specializes in providing business loans as low as a couple thousand dollars to small businesses that might not qualify for loans from banks or other lending institutions.

They have provided business loans and financial advice to small business owners for over 25 years, and they are a founding member and signatory to the Small Business Borrower’s Bill of Rights. Their small business loans are easy to get, fast, and affordable. Borrowers can use the loans to go green, free up cash flow, finance tenant improvements, and more.

Learn more by visiting the Opportunity Fund online, emailing Mayra Contreras at or calling Mayra at (408) 784-8108.

The California Green Business Network
CAGBN is pleased to announce that this year will serve as a pilot launch for a rebate program of up to $500 per business to support environmental sustainability projects at certifying businesses.

More information is available here.

This blog post is made available by the California Green Business Network for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a broad understanding of the commercial loan options available, not to provide specific financial advice.

The California Green Business Network is a nonprofit focused on sustainability. We partner with local governments and utilities to help businesses meet and maintain an aggressive set of environmental standards. Once they are recognized, we promote Certified Green businesses throughout the State to connect them with conscientious consumers and raise the market visibility of our collective efforts around sustainability.

6 Ways to Save Energy (and Money) at Your Small Business

6 Ways to Save Energy (and Money) at Your Small Business

April 5, 2019

There are plenty of ways to reduce your electricity bill, and most don’t require ongoing changes in behavior. By investing a little time and money upfront to adopt the following energy-conservation strategies, you can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every year.

1. Schedule a free energy audit from your utility. An energy audit is a comprehensive, professional assessment of your energy use that offers a clear roadmap to energy efficiency. Many electric utility companies offer free audits to their commercial customers; call them up and ask to have an energy auditor sent out to your business.
Pro tip: Scheduling an energy audit will help you identify all the opportunities for energy-efficiency mentioned in this article and much more.

2. Install energy-efficient lighting. Lighting upgrades are some of the quickest, most obvious, and most effective ways to save energy:

    • Replace your inefficient light bulbs (i.e. halogen, incandescents) with LEDs.
    • Replace your fluorescent tubes (T12s are a must-replace, T8s are a nice-to-replace) with tubular LEDs or new LED fixtures.


Upgrading your lights might require an initial upfront cost, but the upgrades pay for themselves over time through lower electricity bills.
Pro tip: Avoid the initial upfront costs of a lighting upgrade by securing a rebate from your utility or the California Green Business Network. Learn more here.

3. Manage your HVAC equipment. A heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is one of the largest energy drains in any building, and one of the most fruitful sources of energy savings. The following measures can reduce your HVAC system’s energy use by up to 40%:

    • Find and seal air leaks in your building to eliminate the loss of warm and/or cool air.
    • Install programmable thermostats to ensure that your HVAC system spends less energy regulating the temperature in your building when no one is around (i.e. at night and over the weekends).
    • Schedule regular maintenance with an HVAC professional in the spring and fall of every year, at a minimum.
    • Change air filters regularly—the key being if it looks dirty, change it.

4. Activate power management features on your computer. To save $10-$100 per computer per year in electricity costs:

    • Configure the settings on your computer and monitor(s) to initiate low-power sleep mode after 10-15 minutes of inactivity. This simple step saves a significant amount of energy, and has no downsides to speak of.

Learn more about how to configure your computer’s settings.

FYI: Low-power sleep mode “pauses” the current state of your computer and reverts to a minimum power state—just enough to retain the open data. When you click the mouse or push a button on the keyboard, the computer “resumes” its operations with the same open apps and files.

5. Purchase energy-efficient appliances. Before you buy or lease new office equipment, check to see if they are ENERGY STAR® certified. An ENERGY STAR® appliance has been rigorously evaluated and determined to be energy-efficient.

It used to be the case that ENERGY STAR® appliances cost more than standard appliances, but that is less true today. Thanks to the high demand for ENERGY STAR® products, appliance manufacturers have ramped up production and as a result their costs have gone down.

In any case, even if an ENERGY STAR® appliance costs more than a conventional appliance upfront, the more efficient product will typically be cheaper over the long run due to utility bill savings, depending on the initial price difference.

6. Prevent “phantom” energy. In the same way that leaky faucets waste water, many appliances consume electricity when they are turned “off”. This is what we refer to as a “phantom” energy load, and it inflates your electricity bill. To stop these energy leaks.

    • Plug neighboring appliances into a power strip, and make a habit out of switching off those power strips at the end of each day.

Of course, one or two “phantom” appliances might not draw much power, but a whole office of electronics does add up. In total, “phantom” energy loads can account for as much as 20% of your electricity bill.

The transition to a sustainable business is not easy. There are so many things that are different about a sustainable model that it’s hard to get it all right, all the time. That’s why we provide free technical assistance, educational resources, and financial support to all who want to optimize their business. 

Through our free, six-week certification program, all businesses that join The Network reduce their environmental impact, lower the operating cost, harness the competitive advantage of sustainability, earn the credibility of a third-party certification, learn about the triple-bottom-line, and join a community of like-minded businesses. Learn more today about how you can shift into the Sustainable Economy.

22 Ways to Save Water (and Money) at Your Small Business


22 Ways to Save Water (and Money) at Your Small Business

April 2, 2019

California faces a growing gap between the amount of water we need and the amount that can be supplied. These water shortages are made even worse by droughts.

In 2015, for instance, California’s governor had little choice but to set statewide, mandatory reductions in water use because of persistent drought conditions. Changes in the climate may exacerbate this problem.

A growing population and a booming economy are now placing more and more demands on already-stretched water supplies. This scarcity of water could lead to increased prices or decreased access or both.

In order to compete in a water-scarce world, businesses must learn how to do more with less. And to help in that pursuit, we’ve assembled a list of best practices that any business can adopt to start saving water and money.

Plumbing. A large amount of water can be lost to leaky pipes and faucets. To check if you have a leak:

    • Find your water meter and write down the numbers shown.
    • Turn off all faucets and make sure no one uses any water on the premises for the next 60 minutes.
    • Afterwards, read your water meter. If the numbers have changed, there may be a leak.
    • Check your toilet for leaks or contact a licensed plumber.

Bathroom. A large portion of water use in any building occurs in the bathroom. That makes it low-hanging fruit for water bill savings.

Toilets & Urinals.

      • Make sure your toilet doesn’t leak.
      • Replace older toilets with high-efficiency toilets that do not exceed 1.28 gallons per flush. When shopping for toilets, look for the WaterSense logo.
      • If replacements are not possible, retrofit older toilets with a tank bank insert.
      • If daily bathroom traffic is high, consider purchasing a waterless urinal.
        Pro tip: Secure a rebate for toilet upgrades from your water utility or the California Green Business Network. Learn more about how to finance your sustainability upgrades.


      • Install a low-flow shower head that does not exceed 1.8 gallons per minute.
      • Insulate your hot water pipes to prevent heat loss and reduce wait times.


      • Fix leaky faucets.
      • Install low-flow faucet aerators that do no exceed 0.5 gallons per minute.

Kitchen. Water use in the kitchen accounts for a significant portion of total water consumption. Luckily, there are many quick and cost-effective ways to save water in the kitchen.


      • Install energy- and water-efficient dishwashers with an ENERGY STAR® label.
      • Run the dishwasher only when it’s full.


      • Install low-flow faucet aerators that do not exceed 1.5 gallons per minute.
      • FOR RESTAURANTS: Install a low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzle with a WaterSense label.
      • Compost food scraps instead of using the garbage disposal.

Laundry. Inefficient washing machines can cost 300% more to operate than ones that are energy- and water-efficient. To save water:

    • Run your washing machine only when it’s full.
    • Install an ENERGY STAR® certified washing machine.

Staff. Any business can promote water conservation through employee participation. It’s easy, cost-effective, and positive for morale. To implement water conservation practices in your business, follow these steps:

    • Talk to your staff about water saving initiatives.
    • Appoint a “water champion” to check meters and monitor water usage.
    • Establish a baseline for water use and set achievable reduction targets.
    • Discuss water efficiency at team meetings and provide regular updates on consumption.
    • Encourage, incentivize, and reward water-efficiency contributions and ideas across the organization.
    • Include water conservation policies and procedures in on-boarding materials

When to schedule a water audit?

If you own a water-intensive business such as a restaurant, hotel, dry cleaner, or car wash, you should seriously consider scheduling a water audit.

A water audit is a comprehensive assessment of your water consumption that identifies leaks and provides detailed information on all the water saving opportunities mentioned in this article and more. Some water utilities provide free audits to their commercial customers and many more provide rebates for water-efficiency upgrades.

Climate-friendly Menus Can Take a Big Bite Out of Climate Change

Climate-friendly Menus Can Take a Big Bite Out of Climate Change

August 28, 2018

By Kari Hamerschlag, Friends of the Earth

The San Francisco Green Business Program recently held a panel event focused on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions produced by food establishments. Here is what one of their panelists, Kari Hamerschlag, had to say about the role menu options has to play in a food establishment’s environmental impact.

It may be surprising to learn that the biggest impact most restaurants have on climate change comes from the meat at the center of the plate. That’s because livestock production accounts for about 15 percent of global GHG emissions — more than the tailpipe emissions from all the planes, trains, cars and trucks in the world combined!

Beyond climate change, meat and industrially-produced animal foods are a major cause of many other serious ecological and health problems, including: water pollution, deforestation, species extinction, dead zones, fisheries depletion, water scarcity, antibiotics resistance, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The bottom line is that we cannot solve these problems or meet global climate targets unless we dramatically reduce meat consumption, eat more plants and shift to more sustainable livestock production. With nearly 50 percent of food dollars spent outside the home, restaurants have a huge role to play in helping reduce the climate impacts of the food we eat.

Friends of the Earth’s in-depth analysis of Oakland Unified School District’s food purchases found that animal products accounted for 76 percent of their school food carbon footprint, likely a typical number for most food establishments. Keep in mind that there are hugely varying carbon footprints depending on the type of protein: beef, cheese and pork have the highest footprints and beans, lentils and tofu have the lowest. In fact, a pound of beef generates 30 times more carbon emissions than a pound of lentils. Our study found that reducing meat and cheese in kids’ lunches over a two-year period reduced the carbon and water footprint of Oakland School Districts’ food service by 14 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the district saved $42,000 by cutting meal costs, even after serving better quality and more sustainable meat from organic, grass-fed dairy cows.

Cutting the footprint of your restaurant doesn’t mean cutting out meat altogether. Restaurants can make a huge dent in your carbon emissions by offering more plant-based dishes and down-sizing meat portions through plant-centered recipes, smaller plates or innovative products like the popular blended burger that replaces 30 to 50 percent of the meat with mushrooms, legumes or other veggies. Friends of the Earth is working with university dining services to serve more blended burgers and has compiled information, recipes and sources on better meat for food service professionals at Money saved by using less meat can be used to purchase better-quality, third-party- certified animal and plant-based foods produced locally and regionally using ecological farming methods.

By sourcing meat from organic, grass-fed and ecological farms that use natural practices (not chemicals) to cultivate the land and build soil fertility, restaurants can help to lessen the impact of the meat they serve. Practices like composting, cover crops, crop rotations and rotational grazing can help pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sequester it in the soil. These practices also increase the moisture-holding capacity of the soil, especially important in this time of increasing drought. And waste deposited on pasture becomes a potent source of organic nourishment for soils and crops — rather than a source of pollution as it is on factory farms.

But meat that comes from these better sources is not a silver bullet solution to climate change. Conditions vary greatly and some systems, even if they are well-managed, cannot build up that much carbon in the soil. Also, all animal production requires huge amounts of water for feed.


Left: Attendees enjoy panelist presentations; Right: Panelist, Kari Hamerschlag

No matter where the meat comes from, serving less and better is key to addressing many environmental and public health challenges.

As the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America say in their 2016 Menus of Change report:

“Greater emphasis on plant-based foods, including plant-based proteins is the single most important contribution the food service industry can make toward environmental sustainability”

Their annual conference, Menus of Change, provides useful resources for food establishments including recipes and tips for effectively communicating with customers by leading with flavor, not health messages.

Besides doing well for the planet, restaurants that offer a greater variety of plant-based protein foods and lower meat recipes can attract a new base of customers eager for a more flexible diet. According to a recent presentation by Dataessential at the Menus of Change June 2018 Conference, while only 2 percent of people want a vegan lifestyle, 23 percent of people are favorable to plant-based eating; 44 percent of Americans are trying to eat less meat and 57 percent of Americans are trying to eat more plant protein.

With our planet on a fast track toward climate chaos and many Americans eating twice as much meat and protein as is recommended by the USDA, we desperately need restaurants to take leadership and make a real difference — through menu solutions that are both delicious and healthy for people and the planet.

Kari Hamerschlag is deputy director of Friends of the Earth’s food and agriculture program. Kari leads the organization’s animal agriculture work, including a climate-friendly food service initiative that drives institutional market shifts and consumption toward healthier, plant-forward, sustainable food. Kari has extensively researched the links between food production and climate change and authored the web-based Meateater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health. Please contact her if you would like more information on reducing the carbon footprint of your restaurant.