PEA to spread small business campaign to South Philly

The Small Business Energy Efficiency Program can lead to nearly 30 percent reduction in utility bills.

Nineteenth century infrastructure in South Philly could soon be the site of sustainable systems.

While the city maintains a host of sustainability efforts, one of its latest objectives includes implementing energy efficiency into the practice of local mom-and-pop shops and other small businesses.

Recently, the Philadelphia Energy Authority — the visionaries behind the city’s Solarize Philly campaign, launched the second phase of its Small Business Energy Efficiency Program. The initiative aims to reduce monthly utility costs for non-franchise businesses by up to 30 percent while concurrently conserving electricity, heating, cooling and other forms of energy. The program could deliver upgraded equipment to aging systems, creating more appealing spaces for clients and customers.

The program is part of the Energy Campaign, a 10-year effort launched in 2016 to bring in $1 billion of private sector investment into energy efficiency and clean energy projects as a means of creating 10,000 living wage jobs in Philadelphia.

“It’s important to talk about why we’re interested in small business to begin with,” said Alon Abramson, the program manager. “The real reason — the whole point of the energy campaign and what we’re doing here at the energy authority is to look for sectors in the economy where there is a need for energy service, and the market itself is not addressing that need.”

The program specifically focuses on food-related businesses, including delis, convenience stores, small grocers, and restaurants, auto service businesses and laundromats located within the city.

Unlike skyscrapers or corporations, Abramson says it’s hard for industries to project energy services for these smaller businesses, as they ordinarily operate on tight, month-to-month funds, and the business owner is also the primary employee.

According to a recent study by the Food Trust, corner convenience stores often spend more on monthly utility bills than on their rent.

So, the PEA is aiming to take the energy-saving models often used for larger companies and translate them for smaller entities, as Abramson explains that investing in these businesses will build savings over time.

“It’s a very acute challenge for small business to really even just keep the doors open and stay in business, so I think that’s kind of the need. … Anywhere where there is excessive of energy being used because of inefficiencies,” Abramson said. “That means there’s money to be made by the market.”

In fact, with the program, businesses will start saving energy from day one.

At the owners’ convenience, interested businesses will receive a free energy assessment by Lime Energy, whom the PEA has partnered with. After a couple weeks, the businesses will receive a free energy report, outlining a list of recommended energy upgrades to reduce utility costs, as well as projected new monthly bills.

While there is a no-obligation policy, Lime will suggest new equipment, along with several methods of financing.

The PEA has also partnered with West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution, which serves small businesses across the city. The organization will provide financing options, including up to seven-year loans, letting PEA reduce monthly payments. Therefore, the money that is being saved on utility bills is going to be greater than any costs to service that loan, according to Abramson.

The PEA has also applied to incentives from PECO and PGW, as Abramson says both possess “free money” rebates for small businesses to upgrade equipment.

Also, through the fall, businesses can apply for up to $7,000 in matching grant funds from the PA Department of Environmental Protection. Since it is a first-come, first-served basis with only 150 grants available, Abramson encourages businesses to apply for the program as soon as possible.

He also notes the PEA will take care of all application processes from start to finish.

“We want them to focus on their businesses not on filling out paperwork,” Abramson said.

In congruence with this program, businesses are also welcome to apply for Solarize Philly — a group-buying program striving to “make the process of installing solar as easy and affordable as possible.”

In its pilot program, Small Business Energy Efficiency Program helped a Northeast restaurant owner save up to $6,000 a year on utility bills. And while the program has made progress in this region and West Philly, it is now focusing on other parts of the city, especially South Philly, considering its plethora of small businesses.

“We’re really excited about South Philly,” Abramson said. “Just doing a cursory look, there’s over 20 commercial corridors in South Philly itself. Then, obviously, there’s little corner stores and mom and pop shops interspersed throughout the neighborhoods as well, so obviously just a ton of potential.”

All interested businesses are encouraged to sign up for a free evaluation at or by calling (833) 208–5956.