Energy Conservation for Small Businesses

Greenhouse gases and small businesses

Although there is no shortage of contentious issues in American society, greenhouse gases and their role in climate change have emerged as a particularly divisive issue. In its Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued the following statements: [Read more]

  • "There is very high confidence that the net effect of human activities since 1750 has been one of warming."
  • "Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations."

Despite these statements, the debate rages on. Should we do anything about greenhouse gases? Is there actually an increase in greenhouse gases? Is there an evident increase in global temperature? If there is, is it due to an increase in greenhouse gases, or to other factors such as increased solar power or other natural variations? If it is due to an increase in greenhouse gases, to what extent do human activities play a role? And so on.

As a technical assistance provider for Kansas’ small businesses, SBEAP leaves the debate to other entities. Instead, as is the case with all sections on our website, SBEAP serves only to identify any potential regulatory requirements associated with greenhouse gases and to offer pollution prevention opportunities that may reduce GHG emissions.

Small businesses should be familiar with two current regulations in the greenhouse gas arena — the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule and the EPA GHG Tailoring Rule.

EPA Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule

The Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule was promulgated in the Federal Register on Friday, October 30, 2009; the final rule can be reviewed in its entirety (261 pages, pdf). The EPA also has a GHG reporting program section on its website, which provides updates, training, and fact sheets. [Read more]

The Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule applies to direct greenhouse gas emitters, fossil fuel suppliers, and industrial gas suppliers. In general, the threshold for reporting is 25,000 metric tons or more of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per year. Although an estimated 85-90 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions from approximately 10,000 facilities are covered by this final rule, EPA anticipates most small businesses would fall below the 25,000-metric-ton threshold and are not required to report GHG emissions to EPA (see EPA Fact Sheet, Mandatory Report of Greenhouse Gases, August 2010, pdf link).

To ensure your small business is not above 25,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent, you can go the the EPA Applicability Tool (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/GHG-calculator/index.html) to calculate your GHG emissions. EPA designed this tool to help you assess whether your facility would be required to report GHG under the Mandatory GHG Reporting Rule. As indicated in the fact sheet referenced above, applicability depends on the source categories located at your facility and, for some categories, the emission level or production capactity. SBEAP can help you with your GHG calculation, if you wish. One very important item for you to know about the applicability tool is its confidentiality. As shown on the EPA Applicability Tool website, "No information entered by the user is maintained by EPA, and any results generated by the applicability tool, along with additional information entered by the user, do not constitute a submission for purposes of compliance with the rule."

EPA GHG Tailoring Rule

EPA issued its GHG Tailoring Rule in May 2010. As with the Mandatory GHG Reporting Rule, EPA has a dedicated website — http://www.epa.gov/nsr/ghgpermitting.html — to provide information and guidance regarding this rule. Under the Clean Air Action Plan, EPA is authorized to implement prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) and Title V permits to reduce air pollutants emitted to the environment. Conventional air pollutants are regulated at threshold levels of 100 and 250 tons per year. [Read more]

Regulating GHG at those levels would result in tens of thousands of new facilities requiring permits. Consequently, EPA issued the GHG Tailoring Rule as a "common sense" approach to permitting GHG emissions. Consequently, under this rule, EPA will focus initially on the largest industrial emitters; millions of small businesses will be shielded from the requirements of this rule.

The GHG Tailoring Rule essentially raised the thresholds for GHG emissions that define when permits under the PSD and Title V operating permit programs are required for new and existing industrial facilities. Instead of thresholds of 100 and 250 tons, the GHG Tailoring Rule established thresholds of 75,000 and 100,000 tons of CO2e per year. EPA's phased approach to the GHG Tailoring Rule is summarized below:

  1. Starting in January 2011, large industrial facilities that must already obtain Clean Air Act permits for non-GHGs must also include GHG requirements in these permits if they increase, are newly constructed, and have the potential to emit 75,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) or more, or modify and increase GHG emissions by that amount.

  2. Starting in July 2011, in addition to facilities described above, all new facilities emitting GHGs of at least 100,000 tons of CO2e per year and facilities making changes that would increase GHG emissions by at least 75,000 tpy CO2e and that also exceed 100/250 tons per year of GHGs on a mass basis, will be required to obtain construction permits that address GHG emissions (regardless of whether they emit enough non-GHG pollutants to require a permit for those emissions).

  3. Operating permits will be needed by all sources that emit at least 100,000 tons of GHG per year on a CO2e basis beginning in July 2011.

  4. Sources emitting less than 50,000 tons of GHGs per year on a CO2e basis will not be required to obtain permits for GHGs before 2016.

EPA provides on-demand video training on GHG permitting on its website at http://www.apti-learn.net/LMS/EPAHomePage.aspx.

Energy efficiency/energy conservation

Regardless of whether either of the two rules above apply to your facility, conducting an energy audit and implementing energy efficiency and energy conservation projects will save you money while reducing your GHG emissions. As the cost of energy continues to rise and the impact on the environment becomes increasingly important, it’s important for businesses to have a ‘resource library’ where they can go to learn more. Please look through the list of resources below and don’t hesitate to call us at 1-800-578-8898 for assistance. [Read more]

Conserving energy can significantly decrease a business’s energy use and costs. It can also extend equipment life, reduce maintenance costs, reduce risk to energy supply price spikes, provide the ability to sell carbon credits, and enhance a company’s public image[1]. Savings in energy allows a company to spend more money on the quality of its products and services, which allows it to be more competitive in the business market.

A reduction in energy use reduces emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases to the environment too, which preserves air quality. If a company in Kansas saves just $1,000 a year in electricity, it will prevent nearly 17,000 lbs (8.442 tons) of carbon dioxide emissions[2]. Energy conservation is not specific to a few types of industries; any business or building is capable of finding opportunities for energy conservation. Areas with the highest savings potential tend to be lighting, HVAC, water heating, office equipment, and refrigeration[3].

The Kansas State University Pollution Prevention Institute coordinates a summer student Pollution Prevention (P2) Intern Program to assist Kansas businesses in reducing their energy consumption (both electrical and natural gas), as well as their operating costs and GHG emissions. From its inception in 2006 to the summer of 2010, this intern program has identified savings of more than 49 million kWh of electricity, $7.4 million in operating costs, and 42,000 tons of CO2e for Kansas businesses. For more information on the K-State P2 Intern Program, visit the "Intern Program" section of our website.

Rural Energy for America Program

For the past several years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has funded a the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). This program provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. This program helps increase American energy independence by increasing the private sector supply of renewable energy and decreasing the demand for energy through energy efficiency improvements. Over time, these investments can also help lower the cost of energy costs for small businesses and agricultural producers.

Engineering Extension can assist a limited number of small businesses with the energy assessment and grant application. Subject to available funding, the next grant application deadline would be April 30, 2016.

Engineering Extension presented a webinar on the USDA REAP grant on Friday, January 15, 2016. A recording of that webinar is provided below.

USDA Rural Energy for American Program from PPI/SBEAP on Vimeo.

 

Resources

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[1] http://www.industryweek.com/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=15730
[2] www.carbonfootprint.com
[3] http://buildingsdatabook.eren.doe.gov/docs/1.3.3.pdf

K-State Pollution Prevention Institute
(800) 578-8898 | sbeap@ksu.edu
2323 Anderson Ave., Suite 300, Manhattan, KS 66506