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At Greg Smith’s energy efficiency company in Tipp City, there’s a jobs boom underway.
“We’ve gone from one employee less than five years ago – me – to more than 40 employees,” Smith said.
At schools and other government buildings, workers from Smith’s business, Energy Optimizers, USA, conduct comprehensive building energy-efficiency retrofits. They install new temperature control systems, upgrade lighting, arrange power-purchase agreements with solar energy companies, etc.
Clients quickly realize financial benefits from these types of projects.
In south-central Ohio, for example, an $870,000 project at the Jackson City School District – which teaches 2,500 students at five schools – Energy Optimizers retrofits were expected to lower a $1 million energy bill by close to $140,000 annually. But savings ended up being much higher than that – almost $400,000 was saved after one year.
“If we can save a teacher’s salary or two by doing this, it makes sense,” Phil Howard, the district’s superintendent said, before the full savings from the retrofits were known.
Other successful projects Energy Optimizers has completed include: lighting retrofits at Barleycorn’s (a restaurant), the Dayton Children’s Hospital, and Aptalis Pharmaceuticals; and energy efficiency upgrades at Miami (Ohio) University and buildings owned by the City of Dayton.
Smart, state-level policies have helped Ohio’s economy become more energy efficient and create jobs. Smith said an efficiency standard requiring Ohio’s electric utilities to help customers save energy has been particularly helpful. The utilities offer incentives to “buy down” the cost of efficiency upgrades.
“The rebates are driving projects,” said Smith, who got his start in energy efficiency while working at Trane, the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning industry giant.
In addition to utility incentives, Smith has a tight business model. He guarantees buildings his company retrofits will hit projected energy savings – or Smith sends a check for the difference.
Politically, Smith identifies himself as a conservative.
“This is not what people think about when they think about conservatives,” he said. “But I think energy efficiency and renewable energy are important for conservatives and independents to take note of.”
Smith said promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy through legislation like Ohio’s Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard is in the country’s best interest, but that legislation was frozen in 2014, forcing renewable energy and energy efficiency companies to re-think Ohio investments.
In addition to ramping up the RPS in Ohio, Smith said strong implementation of the federal Clean Power Plan in Ohio and other Midwestern states is crucial to sending a strong, clear market signal that will attract innovative, growing companies – and their jobs.
“In my mind, this is the next Industrial Revolution,” Smith said.