Government helps rural businesses achieve energy efficiency through grants

Most businesses would not have the opportunity to overhaul their HVAC systems, food storage facilities, lighting and other utilities, but one West Virginia supermarket, with the help of a government grant, was able to institute all these reforms and save itself approximately $8,500 annually.

These improvements were made possible because of the Rural Energy of America Program (REAP), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is intended to help rural businesses adopt new energy standards. The department awarded West Virginia businesses 25 REAP grants totaling $800,000, including that supermarket.

"USDA has partnered with more than 13,000 of America's farmers, ranchers and rural businesses to improve their bottom line by helping them find energy-efficient solutions that will spur economic growth and prosperity in rural America," USDA secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

While rural areas are just now installing many of the tenets of energy efficiency, some facilities in urban areas of the Northeast are being lauded for their energy use practices. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Energy Department recently awarded its prestigious Energy Star distinction to nine New England businesses.

The rigorous EPA standards are unlikely to be met by organizations that have just recently embraced energy efficiency, since the Energy Star award requires businesses and organizations to show a long-term commitment to lowering their energy consumption.

After business owners hire a commercial inspection service to lead an energy audit, they will be able to more effectively plan future energy improvements. In time, more commercial institutions will be able to slash their energy costs by installing energy-efficient heating and insulation in their properties. Similarly, homeowners can contact a Washington, D.C. home inspector operating in the Tri-State area to discover similar savings.