Best Practices

Help Your Members Save Money and Find Financing

1. Share Information on Incentives and Rebates

Report to members on economic incentives available for clean energy projects.

Share information about tax incentives, rebates, and grants available at local, state, and federal levels for clean energy and energy efficiency initiatives. Share this information with your members through your website, newsletter, or in-person workshops. Click here to see the database of state, local, utility and federal incentives for renewables and energy efficiency.

Lawrence, KS: The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce website directs businesses to online information on state energy incentives. The Chamber offers to assist members in determining how best to combine incentives for maximum economic benefits.

2. Encourage and Help Members Utilize Existing Incentives

In most states, businesses are already paying into efficiency programs through their monthly energy bills. Help your members get their money’s worth by utilizing existing incentives to improve their energy efficiency!

Once you’ve provided your members with information on available incentives and rebates, help your members even further by giving them the tools and encouragement they need to take advantage of these incentives. Explain to your members that they are likely already paying for clean energy and energy efficiency programs through a system benefits charge, a state-mandated charge added to electric bills to distribute the costs of these programs. Educate your members on how exactly they can utilize these incentives, and the potential cost savings for their business.

Some states in the Northeast receive funds from RGGI (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) to invest in energy efficiency. If you are in the Northeast and have questions about this, we can help!

Boston, MA:  Responding to their members’ concerns about energy costs, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce has been working to expand awareness and adoption among its member companies of utility-based energy efficiency incentives. Massachusetts offers robust energy efficiency incentives, which can help businesses lower their energy costs and better manage their energy usage. However, while all Massachusetts ratepayers, including businesses fund these programs through a system benefits charge on their electricity bill, only 3-5% of companies actually utilize these efficiency programs each year. The up-front cost of implementing energy efficiency systems, coupled with lack of awareness among many small and mid-sized businesses of incentives available to them, remain impediments to broader adoption.

The Chamber is working to promote increased energy efficiency among its members in two ways: (1) The Chamber filed legislation to address the financing gap by establishing an energy efficiency investment tax credit for businesses with 50 or fewer employees, applicable to the business’s costs related to an energy efficiency upgrades. (2) The Chamber is also working to increase awareness of opportunities available to businesses to help lower their energy usage and costs.  In March 2012, the Chamber partnered with MIT for an energy efficiency and sustainability event, hosting 100 member executives who learned about energy efficiency incentives, best practices, and more efficient building design.

3. Provide Energy Efficiency Tools

Share simple tools to help member businesses so they can assess and reduce their own energy use. Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy can help!

Take advantage of existing tools. Many chambers are already connecting their members with energy efficiency experts, and developing free online tools their members can use to monitor their own energy use and identify areas for improvement, including in lighting, appliances, operations, and transportation.

Kansas City, MO: In affiliation with the Greater Kansas City Climate Protection Partnership, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce helps provide local businesses with an energy assessment tool and carbon footprint calculator on its website. The tools are provided free of cost, with businesses entering data on their transportation fleet, area serviced, business travel, energy purchased, and materials used, among other categories.

4. Help Members Complete a Professional Energy Audit

Assist member businesses in finding funding and connecting with energy audit professionals who can identify areas for energy and cost savings.

Help your members take the first step toward long-term energy savings with a professional assessment of their energy use. Identify trusted professionals whom your members can easily connect with to perform an audit of their facilities and operations. Utilize chamber, grant, or utility funding to assist members in completing the audit.

Cleveland, OH: Through the Ohio Small Business Energy Efficiency Grant Program, the Cleveland Chamber’s Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) helps provide funding to Ohio businesses to complete a comprehensive, professional energy analysis. Businesses that spend less than $150,000 per year on their combined utility costs are eligible to receive grant funds to cover the cost of a professional energy assessment, through which they can target ways to reduce energy costs and improve their bottom lines. Learn more >>

Grand Junction, CO: Businesses participating in the GreenBack$ Program, administered by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Grand Junction, are eligible to receive a $200 credit towards an energy audit, once they take specified low or no-cost steps to reduce their energy and environmental impact. The program is voluntary and self-audited by each business, and is funded through city and state grants. Member businesses that document their progress and complete different GreenBack$ levels receive special publicity through listings on the Chamber’s website and logo recognition. Learn more >>

5. Assist with Retrofits

Secure funding to assist member businesses in lowering their costs through energy efficiency retrofits

Utilize grant or utility funding to provide assistance to members that want to implement efficiency improvements. Alternatively, provide member businesses that have already completed retrofits with retroactive funding, to offset some of their installation costs. Funding assistance with retrofits encourages energy awareness among businesses and customers, and helps build demand for local energy efficiency technology companies and service providers.

Cleveland, OH: In response to a 2008 Ohio law requiring commercial and industrial businesses to pay surcharges on their energy use, the Cleveland Chamber’s Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) acted to help businesses comply with the law and save money. Working closely with FirstEnergy, one of Ohio’s major utility companies, COSE provides resources and funding for businesses seeking lighting retrofits, heating and air conditioning enhancements, and other building improvements. Businesses that complete certain energy efficiency retrofits are eligible to bypass the surcharge on their energy use or secure a one-time cash rebate. Learn more >>

6. Establish Vendor Relationships

Facilitate relationships with clean energy vendors that benefit member businesses.

Connect members with local vendors that offer clean energy products or services. Secure a reduced price in advance to benefit both members and vendors.

Grand Junction, CO: In order to save its businesses money on solar power installations and electricity use, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce established an affiliate solar program through SunPower and High Noon Solar. In addition to federal, state, and local solar incentives, Grand Junction Chamber affiliates can now receive an additional rebate of up to $10,000 on the purchase of SunPower solar systems for business facilities. Learn more >>

7. Help Members Reduce Shipping Costs

Help your members combat rising fuel costs and reduce dead-head miles by facilitating partnerships between shippers in your community and in other areas.

Work with shippers in your community to establish partnerships with companies in other regions that share similar shipping routes. Because companies usually pay for the round trip of their shipping containers (even when the containers are empty on the return leg), there is a significant opportunity for cost and fuel savings when companies can share the load. Through such partnerships, shipping containers can be emptied upon arrival at their first destination, then filled with goods from another company, and returned to their place of origin. This exercise in efficiency can save businesses thousands of dollars per year.

Asheville, NC: After hearing from a local manufacturer about the high costs of returning empty shipping containers, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce launched the Western North Carolina Transportation Alliance in 2007. Based on the concept of lane-sharing and eliminating dead-head miles, the Alliance connects major shippers in different regions, who can share shipping containers and thus reduce their own costs and fuel usage. As of summer 2012, the Alliance has grown to include dozens of transportation, logistics, and supply chain professionals. The savings are significant – in 2011 alone, shippers saved 44,000 gallons of diesel through lane-sharing. Each gallon and dollar saved strengthens the health and viability of western North Carolina’s manufacturing center. Learn more >>

Engage and Educate Your Members on Clean Energy Issues

8. Develop a Speaker Series

Host a regular series of lectures or discussion panels to share clean energy information. 

Many chambers organize and facilitate a weekly, monthly, or quarterly event in which members can hear lectures or discussions on clean energy ideas, new technologies, clean tech policies, and economic opportunities. Your chamber can bring in local experts from business, research, technology, and government sectors to strengthen the awareness and knowledge of member businesses.

Asheville, NC: In partnership with the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce hosts “Green Mondays,” a monthly discussion series in which experts, businesses, regional leaders, citizens, and students gather to learn about clean energy and economic development, in addition to other related topics. Each event consists of a brief presentation, followed by a panel discussion and community conversation. Presentations and video excerpts are posted online following the event. Past topics include the “Feasibility of Wind Energy Generation in Western North Carolina” and “Energy Financing.” Learn more >>

Boulder, CO: Partnering with the City of Boulder, the Boulder Chamber of Commerce hosts a quarterly “ReENERGYze Your Business” breakfast series, which presents energy and cost-savings tips tailored to local businesses. The events are free for member businesses and non-members.

Bartlett,TN: The Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce has offered to provide local chambers from around the country with web access to their Thursday morning coffee series, in which they help local businesses from a variety of sectors understand how they can use reliable and cost-effective tools to reduce their energy consumption and save money.

9. Monitor and Brief Your Members on Legislation

Follow, report, and educate members on legislative developments related to clean energy.

Monitor legislation related to clean energy and energy efficiency at federal, state, and local levels. Educate member businesses on legislative developments and the business implications, empowering them with the knowledge to plan accordingly or engage in policy advocacy.

Many chambers throughout the country currently monitor, educate on, and advocate for energy legislation. Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy can help you get started on this effort.

Kalamazoo, MI: Like many chambers around the country, the Southwest Michigan Chamber First closely follows energy legislation and shares its findings with the local business community. The Kalamazoo Regional Chamber assesses the economic impacts of developing and enacted energy legislation on local businesses, and reports its recommendations to the Chamber’s Public Policy Council and Governing Council, to assist in developing the Chamber’s advocacy priorities and strategy.

10. Create an Energy Committee with Member Companies

Engage member businesses from various sectors in energy discussions through the creation of a chamber-led committee.

Involve your members in ongoing energy discussions and planning by recruiting them to serve on an energy committee within your chamber. At committee meetings, discuss the energy concerns of committee members, options for clean energy or energy efficiency projects, and policy proposals that the committee can support. Make sure that energy providers, large and small consumers, clean tech companies, and businesses from other sectors in your region are represented.

Boston, MA: In 2010, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce created an energy committee composed of member companies to develop and promote beneficial energy policies. In order to accurately represent the Chamber’s diverse membership, the committee included traditional and clean energy companies, as well as consumers and ratepayers from a range of sectors and industries.

In the spring of 2012, the Chamber released a platform of energy proposals, developed in partnership with Energy Committee members. Extensive member input, research, and meetings with public and private sector stakeholders contributed to the proposals’ development. The platform—which was submitted to the Massachusetts Legislature for its consideration—is designed to promote a) cost-effective clean energy procurement and development, b) robust safety and infrastructure investment, and c) increased adoption of energy efficiency practices. The Chamber plans to continue working to advance these proposals in the coming weeks and months. Learn more >>

11. Share Expert Information

Create an online information hub for businesses, utilizing existing information from experts on clean energy. There’s no need to re-create the wheel—we can help!

Through your website or other communication channels, create or link to a go-to resource for members seeking comprehensive information about clean energy policies, technologies, costs, and benefits. Tailor your information hub to your local businesses by focusing on industries common to your region. Provide links to existing online resources from experts, including the U.S. Department of Energy, research institutions, universities, and utilities.

Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy is creating an information hub you can share with your member companies. And many chambers have resources you can replicate, such as:

Cleveland, OH: Through its online Energy Resource Guide, the Cleveland Chamber’s Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) provides local businesses with basic information about energy efficiency, including links to a glossary of energy-related terms, government resources such as Energy Star, and other money-saving tips from experts. The Energy Resource Guide also provides industry-specific checklists for businesses to reduce their energy use. Learn more >>

Bartlett, TN: Through its energy-focused Team Green Zone, the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce provides member companies with the energy information they need and the service providers to help them become more energy efficient. The Chamber’s website provides energy information for specific industries, including healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and small businesses. Learn more >> 

12. Create Best Practice Energy Guides

Assemble best practices from businesses in your area to help your members find easy, cost-effective ways to use less energy.

Survey or speak with your members about how they’ve reduced their energy use or implemented clean energy projects. Identify projects that are cost-effective and replicable, and record what the businesses did, how they did it, and the benefits for their bottom line. Share this valuable information with your other members through your website or a printed publication.

Cleveland, OH: Through its online Energy Resource Guide, the Cleveland Chamber’s Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) offers “Stories of Success” about how businesses in various industries have improved their bottom line through energy efficiency initiatives. The stories contain energy-saving tips from profiled businesses, which include a furniture company that cut its annual energy costs by $65,000, and a historic inn that now saves $1200-1800 per month in utilities. Learn more>>

Position Your Region as a Clean Energy Hub

13. Attract New Companies and Capital

Publicize the benefits of clean energy businesses relocating to your region.

Through online and printed materials, promote your region as a potential  hub for clean energy products or services. Provide information on local renewable energy use, state or local economic incentives, workforce skill sets, public polling data showing support for clean energy, services provided by your chamber, and growth of the clean energy economy in your region in general. Attend clean energy industry conferences and market your region as a clean tech hub to attract businesses to your community.

Austin, TX: Through its exceptional marketing and outreach to clean tech entrepreneurs, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce has established the city as one of the fastest growing clean energy hubs in the nation. In addition to attending industry conferences around the country, the Chamber provides exceptional online and printed information to attract clean energy businesses—explaining Austin’s high renewable energy use, top-ranked clean energy utility, access to the University of Texas and its clean energy incubator, tech-savvy workforce, investments in smart grid research, and other benefits. Learn more >>

Other Examples:
Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce
(CO) proactively recruits clean tech companies.

14. Help Establish Business Incubators

Attract entrepreneurs and venture capital with an incubator for clean energy start-ups.

Help organize a dedicated space, mentorship program, financing options, and services geared toward jump-starting clean energy entrepreneurs. Partner with local research institutions, universities, and business networks to facilitate information sharing, business development, and networking between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Denver, CO: The South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce was integral in conceptualizing and launching CleanLaunch, Colorado’s only incubator with a 100% focus on start-up companies looking to provide the next generation of clean, renewable, and efficient energy technologies. Located at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, CleanLaunch helps entrepreneurs assemble solid management teams, secure funding, and accelerate market entry. The South Metro Denver Chamber now serves on CleanLaunch’s Board of Directors. Learn more >>

Other Examples:
Greater Austin Chamber
(TX) partners with University of Texas incubator.
Kalispell Chamber
(MT) supports startups with Small Business Development Center.
Syracuse Chamber
(NY) helped launch New York’s Clean Tech Center

15. Welcome Technology Demonstration Projects

Assist your region in bringing in demonstration versions of new technologies to spur investment and interest.

Identify emerging clean energy technologies that have not yet broken into your local market or spurred much investment. Secure funding from Chamber resources, foundations, or government grants to bring in demonstration versions of these technologies, educating local businesses and investors on the value of building this new market in your region.

North Myrtle Beach, SC: Thanks to the leadership and initiative of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, South Carolina welcomed its first ever wind turbine in 2010. Seeking to attract clean energy investors to the windy North Myrtle Beach coast, the Chamber helped build a strong coalition of local business, academic, government, and environmental communities to form the North Strand Coastal Wind Team. With federal and state grants, the team is now working on two pilot projects, which will result in several beachfront demonstration turbines and additional rooftop turbines offset the energy costs of beachfront hotels. The wind turbines are expected to save the community $215,500 in utility costs, and encourage turbine developers to test their products and set up production in North Myrtle Beach. Learn more >>

16. Host a Clean Energy Expo

Host an expo to market existing clean energy ventures in your region.

Help existing clean energy companies in your region publicize their goods or services through an expo, hosted exclusively by your chamber, or in partnership with another organization. Offer space for clean energy businesses to set up booths, speak on a discussion panel, or distribute their materials to consumers and investors.

Marlborough, MA: In partnership with the Solar and Wind Expo, the Marlborough Regional Chamber of Commerce helped host an expo focused on emerging solar and wind energy technologies. The 2012 expo featured discussions with representatives from regional solar and wind power companies, increasing the exposure of local businesses. Learn more >>

17. Facilitate a Focus Group

Host a focus group with local businesses to identify barriers and opportunities for clean energy growth, financing, and success.

Moderate a focus group in which local businesses are prompted to discuss the barriers they face in adopting more energy efficiency or clean energy projects. Alternatively, concentrate your focus group on clean tech businesses, in order to learn how they’ve grown in your region (so you can help other members do the same), or the obstacles they face in being successful within the clean energy space. Use these focus groups to identify ways in which your chamber can provide more assistance, through education, networking, sharing information on financing, etc.

Boulder, CO: The Boulder Chamber of Commerce is preparing to facilitate a focus group with 35 Boulder-based companies to identify barriers and economic opportunities for clean energy small businesses in the region. More information to come.

18. Develop a Clean Energy Focus by Leveraging Staff, Board, and Utility Partners

Utilize existing chamber employees, board relationships, and utility partners to recruit clean energy businesses to your chamber and serve as a go-to resource for businesses seeking clean energy information.

Developing a clean energy specialty in your chamber can help your members save money while also enhancing your regional marketing and recruitment efforts. It will also enable you to  provide information on new technologies, industry developments, and relevant policy issues to your members.

There are several ways your chamber can accomplish this: (1) Consider leveraging the talent of a current chamber employee with energy knowledge or interest to work on this. (2) Replicate what other chambers have done and create a clean energy position funded by member companies or by your local utility. Businesses and utilities can benefit as this energy expert facilitates energy savings for businesses, compliance with new energy policies, and coordination with the utility in its clean energy efforts. (3) When staff additions or changes are impractical, engage board members in a similar role, utilizing their knowledge and connections to network with clean energy businesses.

Bartlett, TN: In 2011, the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce welcomed Clayton Poff as its Director of Energy Efficiency. A Marine Corps veteran, Poff views improving the energy efficiency of local businesses as a continuation of his efforts to improve our national security, through reducing dependence on foreign energy sources. Poff hosts a Thursday morning coffee series, through which he engages local businesses on reducing their energy consumption, using reliable and cost-effective technologies. Poff’s Team Green Zone also works individually with businesses to identify solutions relevant to their own buildings and operations, and connects them with clean energy service providers in the region. Learn more >>

Austin, TX: Partnering with the local municipally-owned utility, Austin Energy, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce appointed its first Director of Clean Energy in 2007. Jose Beceiro is now a clean energy leader in Austin, recruiting new technology businesses and facilitating their relocation to the Austin area, and engaging with city and state officials, Austin Energy, Austin’s Clean Energy incubator, and other organizations in joint efforts to make Austin the “Clean Energy Capital of the World.” Funding for Beceiro’s salary comes from Austin Energy, the local utility, providing a strong example of how chambers can overcome funding challenges in their clean energy efforts. Learn more>>

19. Launch Public-Private Partnerships

Help establish specialized organizations that can focus on clean energy in a more continuous way.

Because chambers of commerce are often short on staff and resources, organizing a separate organization that can focus independently on clean energy for the long-term will benefit your members, attract clean energy companies to your region, and stimulate investment. Bring together public and private sector experts, help establish the infrastructure, and identify funding sources to allow the organization to exist even without direct chamber oversight or financial support.

Austin, TX: The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce was a founding member of Pecan Street, Inc., an independent research and development organization that aims to spark the smart grid market in Austin through providing testing facilities, recommendations, and policy research. The initiative began in 2008, with the Greater Austin Chamber, City of Austin, and other founding members enlisting nearly a dozen private companies to explore electric grid problems and solutions. In 2009, the organization was incorporated as a stand-alone non-profit, and today it continues to support a smart grid demonstration project in Austin and smart grid advocacy efforts. Learn more>>

Other Examples:
Greater Kansas City Chamber (MO) partners with the city, state, and local utility on the Sustainable Skylines KC project.
Boulder Chamber
(CO) plays a leading role in CleanTech Boulder.
Genesee Regional Chamber
(MI) launched its E3 Innovation Network.
Los Angeles Chamber
(CA) serves on the board of Clean Tech Los Angeles.

20. Engage in Economic Development Pilot Projects

Develop relationships with foundations and other organizations to utilize your region as a test area for new clean energy initiatives that will spur economic development.

Utilizing your connections with the business community, partner with organizations looking to develop regional economic development initiatives centered on clean energy and energy efficiency. Through your pilot project, help develop a long-term plan for jumpstarting clean energy businesses in your region. Offer members opportunities to learn about clean energy technologies and financing, recognize local business leaders in clean energy, and make your chamber a go-to resource for clean energy companies looking to relocate to your region.

St. Louis, MO: Through its development of the Climate Prosperity Project, the  the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA) has adopted a leadership role in highlighting the economic development potential of clean energy. Launched in partnership with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Climate Prosperity Project seeks to help participating regions grow jobs and their regional economies through large-scale energy efficiency, cleaner vehicles, investing in new clean business opportunities and other clean energy initiatives. The St. Louis RCGA uses its region for one of the pilot projects, and is currently collaborating with three other areas (Silicon Valley/San Jose, Denver, and Portland) as these pilot projects expand. Learn more>>

21. Address Air Quality Issues with Clean Energy Solutions

As businesses consider relocation options, air quality can be a significant factor in their decision. Use energy efficiency and clean energy strategies to reduce pollution in your air.

Poor air quality days can negatively affect your economic development opportunities, as businesses consider quality of life for their workers in deciding where to relocate. Provide your members with educative tools to reduce their transportation-related fuel use, and in turn, help improve local air quality. Focus on efficiency and potential cost savings in your messaging, and share best practices of businesses that have already reduced their fuel use. From transitioning fleets to cleaner burning fuels, to replacing regional meetings with teleconferencing, share feasible options for businesses of all sizes.

Salt Lake City, UT: Surrounded by mountains, Salt Lake City suffers from nearly 10 inversion days a year, during which a haze settles over the city and air pollution reaches unhealthy levels. Recognizing that poor air quality was a threat to its economic development, the Salt Lake Chamber created the Clean Air Champions program to encourage businesses to save fuel, reduce vehicle emissions, and  improve business attraction and retention in Salt Lake City. The Clean Air Champions program recognizes businesses leading the way on clean energy transportation solutions, shares best practices, and provides cost-savings data. By helping businesses achieve millions of dollars in savings per year, The Clean Air Champions program is improving not only the quality of life in Salt Lake, but also the economic wellbeing of the region. Learn more >>

Lead by Example

22. Retrofit Your Chamber Building

Make the necessary retrofits to your headquarters to obtain certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (LEED) or the Green Building Initiative. Use your certification to educate member businesses.

Set an example of efficient energy use in buildings and operations by following the guidelines of major building certification programs. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program provides a framework for implementing practical and measurable solutions for building design, construction, operations, and maintenance that will reduce wasted energy and save your chamber money on electricity bills.

The Green Building Initiative (GBI) addresses building efficiency in many different sectors, including corporate offices, grocery stores, retail buildings, industrial facilities, and healthcare facilities, among others. GBI provides a third-party certification through its Green Globes system.

Both GBI and LEED certification are nationally recognized stamps of approval for your efficient buildings, and can be used as a positive example and teaching tool for local businesses as they attempt to reduce their own energy use and costs.

Waco, TX: With a bold vision of putting Waco on the map for energy efficiency, the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce closely followed LEED guidelines in designing and constructing its headquarters, earning the title of having the first Chamber of Commerce building in America to be LEED-certified. The gold level-certified building includes a 1,400-square-foot living roof, reduces water use by up to 30 percent compared to standard buildings, and consumes 22 percent less energy. After the Chamber’s announcement that it would design to meet LEED certification, others followed suit – McLennan Community College, Caterpillar Logistics, Baylor University, and others have obtained or are currently working toward LEED certification for new buildings in Waco. Learn more>>

23. Reduce Your Chamber’s Energy Use

Adopt energy efficiency measures and retrofits in your chamber’s headquarters, encouraging members to do the same.

Bring in experts to perform an energy audit of your chamber’s headquarters and operations. Identify cost-effective retrofits and changes in internal operations that will save your chamber in energy bills, while serving as a teaching tool for local businesses. Improvements might include replacing inefficient lighting and appliances, altering settings on computers and other technologies, installing rooftop solar panels, or purchasing renewable energy credits, among countless other projects.

Durham, NC: The Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce is a community leader in encouraging energy efficiency, demonstrating best practices through modifications to its own office and operations. The Chamber’s energy reduction efforts include knocking down walls in its office space to bring in more natural light, installing energy efficient lighting with motion sensors, and investing in energy efficient appliances. In 2010, the Greater Durham Chamber earned Green Plus certification for its efforts, and currently serves on the Board for Green Plus, encouraging businesses and chambers nationwide to adopt clean energy practices. Learn more>>

Other Examples:
The Cleveland Chamber’s Council of Smaller Enterprises (OH), North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce (SC), and Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce (IN) have all received Green Plus certification for their energy efficiency efforts.

24. Adopt New Technologies at Your Chamber

Install cutting-edge technologies at your chamber headquarters to encourage early adoption among your business community.

Partner with local clean energy companies or utilities promoting state-of-the-art technologies to use your chamber headquarters as an installation and demonstration site. Share information about new technologies with your members, encourage them to visit your headquarters to see cutting-edge devices in action, and promote further early adoption among your members.

Asheville, NC: In February 2012, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, working with the energy company Progress Energy Carolinas, welcomed the installation of two plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging stations at the chamber’s headquarters. Access to public charging infrastructure in Asheville will increase the number of miles people travel on electricity, and help pave the way for the mass adoption of electric vehicles. The Asheville Chamber sees itself as a natural location for the charging stations, which will serve visitors to the area, as well as members attending business meetings at the Chamber. Learn more >>

Partner with your City Government

25. Implement Clean Energy Transportation Solutions

Work with your local government and community leaders to jumpstart the adoption of cutting-edge clean energy transportation technologies at the municipal level.

Several new clean energy transportation technologies offer reduced traffic congestion, increased business for local suppliers, and a more enjoyable daily commute for employees. Working with city officials, identify clean energy options that are practical and cost-effective for your region, and will help identify your area as a clean energy leader, therefore leading to greater economic development down the line. Options include bike-sharing, electric vehicle infrastructure, electric trains, and high-speed rail, among many others.

Salt Lake City, UT: The Salt Lake Chamber is leading its city toward clean energy commuting, through the development of a solar-powered bike share program. In coordination with the city and its partner organization, the Downtown Alliance, the Salt Lake Chamber has helped form a bike-share nonprofit group, and is working to raise $750,000 in corporate funds to finance a system of 10-12 solar-powered, automated racks, around 120 bikes, cell connectivity, and a website. The organization aims to be operable in 2012, and sees reduced traffic congestion and happier commuters in its future. Learn more >>

Genesee County, MI: The Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce is working with municipal leaders, local businesses, and the Ann Arbor-based Clean Energy Coalition to prepare for more electric vehicles in Michigan’s future. By hosting meetings for key stakeholders, and facilitating the exchange of information on electric vehicle infrastructure, the Genesee Regional Chamber hopes to see the installation of more electric vehicle charging stations in the near future. With the Chamber’s support, Genesee County welcomed the nation’s first solar-powered charging station for the Chevrolet Volt in June 2011. Learn more >>

26. Help Your City Replace Inefficient Technologies

Work with local government officials and energy experts to replace inefficient lighting or other technologies at the city level with more efficient options.

Encourage your city government to be a clean energy leader by installing readily available, more efficient technologies at the city-wide level. Work with city partners and energy experts to study the economic benefits of replacing certain technologies, such as public lighting. Use this data to design a city-wide implementation plan, utilizing the products and services of local suppliers and installers. Once implemented, educate your members on the energy savings of these new technologies, and how they might adopt similar cost-saving measures in their businesses.

Washington, DC: Following a study showing the potential economic benefits of more efficient street lighting in our nation’s capital, Greater Washington Board of Trade is working with local governments to make improvements across the region. As part of the Street Lights Work Group, the Board of Trade helped secure $1 million in federal stimulus funds to support the installation of more than 1000 LED light bulbs in Washington, DC street lamps. Implementation steps are now underway. Learn more >>

27. Set Energy Efficiency Goals for your City

Partner with city officials to set bold goals for reducing city-wide energy use. Help your members achieve these efficiency goals.

Setting energy efficiency goals will help your region save money, while sending a clear signal to investors and clean tech companies that demand will be greater for more efficient technologies and clean energy services. Partner with your city government to establish bold goals for reducing the energy use of your city, including that of residents and local businesses. Work with local businesses to help them meet these goals, by sharing existing resources on how to make energy efficiency retrofits, connecting them with energy experts, and promoting the services of clean energy companies in your region.

Newton, MA: The Newton-Needham Chamber of Commerce currently  partners with its city government and local utility to work toward their goal of reducing Newton’s energy consumption by 20% by 2020. As part of the city-wide “Energy-Smart Newton Program,” the Chamber engages local businesses in clean energy efforts by hosting events to teach members about the financial incentives of becoming more efficient. Learn more >>

Recognize Leaders in Clean Energy

28. Promote a Certification Program

Help member businesses follow a program through which they adopt clean energy practices, and receive certification in return.

Offer guidance and tools to help member businesses reduce their energy use, make energy efficient retrofits, or adopt new renewable energy technologies. Follow an existing certification program, such as Green Plus, or work with experts to create your own. Provide businesses that complete the program with certification that demonstrates they are a local leader in clean energy.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro, NC: In a groundbreaking effort, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce co-founded the Green Plus certification program, partnering with University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Duke University, and the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce. Green Plus offers small businesses a roadmap for improving their energy efficiency and other sustainability practices, guides them along the way, and provides certification once the process is completed. Green Plus is now the clean energy standard used by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber actively encourages its members to participate in the program, even providing scholarships for their participation. Learn more>>

Fayetteville, AR: Through its GreeNWAy Initiative, the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce offers a two-year certification program for small and large member businesses that have taken steps to reduce their energy use, among other efforts. Businesses are assessed and scored on their energy use by the Chamber’s partner, the University of Arkansas, and after paying a nominal fee for certification, they can receive special listing on the Chamber’s website. Participating businesses must submit electricity bills to show savings and reductions. Learn more>>

29. Recognize Existing Leaders

Recognize and publicize member businesses that are already clean energy leaders.

Even if a certification program is beyond your chamber’s resources, provide online recognition and publicity for members that have adopted clean energy or energy efficient practices. Incentivize other businesses to share their clean energy practices by offering listings on your website, inclusion in chamber publications, and badges and logos that businesses can display on their own materials.

Kalamazoo, MI: The Green Choice Program, managed by the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce, promotes an online listing of member businesses that have shown leadership in clean energy practices and products. In determining whether to list a particular business, the Chamber considers the business’s certifications (including LEED and Energy Star), pending certifications or accreditations, products distributed or manufactured, and specific company policies related to energy efficiency or related practices. Learn more>>

Other Examples:
Dekalb County Chamber
(GA) recognizes businesses for their achievements in energy efficiency.
Greater Indianapolis Chamber
(IN) highlights businesses that are reducing their energy use.

30. Sponsor Clean Energy Awards

Give out an annual award to clean energy leaders in your community.

Recognize local business, community, or government leaders who have made a difference in clean energy developments that favor your business community and the clean energy economy as a whole. Publicize your award winners on your website, in chamber publications, and through media channels. If an entire new award series seems too cumbersome, consider adding a clean energy award to an existing event your chamber already hosts.

Kansas City, MO: Through its annual Energy Booster Award, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce honors policymakers and industry leaders who have made a measurable difference in the energy policy arena, and who embraces the complementary goals of clean energy development and economic growth. Past recipients include Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson for his renewable energy policy work and Bill Downey, President and CEO of electric company KCP&L, for his efforts to provide affordable and reliable clean energy to the Kansas City region.  Learn more >>

Boulder, CO: The Boulder Chamber of Commerce hosts an annual high-profile awards dinner to recognize business leaders in its region. The Chamber recently added a new award to its list, honoring a “Community Sustainability Leader” for their efforts to reduce energy use and take on other initiatives in sustainability. The award’s first recipient was Boulder Community Hospital in March 2012. Learn more >>

Other Examples:
The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce sponsors an annual award series, the “Sustainable South Florida Awards,” which recognizes local leaders in energy conservation and efficiency, among other efforts.

31. Host a Competition

Introduce a clean energy competition through which member businesses vie for awards or funding.

Challenge member businesses to compete for awards from your chamber or funding for clean energy retrofits. Give awards to businesses that have shown leadership in taking on renewable energy or energy efficiency projects in the past year. In your publicity of the awards, use winners’ stories to demonstrate how clean energy initiatives can help cut expenses, increase revenue, and position businesses to succeed in the long-term.

Cleveland, OH: The Cleveland Chamber’s Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE) launched its inaugural COSE Small Business Energy Efficiency Challenge in 2010. Aimed at rewarding small businesses for energy efficiency projects they took on to reduce their energy use and improve their bottom line, the competition involved a total of $16,500 in cash prizes allocated among multiple categories: overall prize winner, goods and service sector, office and retail sector, and home business sector. The grand prize winner also received a free one-year COSE membership and free one-year registration to Green Plus, a sustainability certification program for small businesses. Learn more>>

St. Louis, MO: The St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA) launched its Green Business Challenge in January 2010. 69 businesses completed the Challenge in 2011, assessing their baseline energy use, implementing new strategies over 8 months, and receiving awards according to their performance. Extra credit is given for innovations like using renewables on site. Learn more>>

Loudoun County, VA: As part of its Green Business Challenge, the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce offers a points-based competition and certification program for businesses looking to save money and improve their bottom lines with energy efficiency, clean energy, and other practices. Businesses can find educational resources on the Green Business Challenge website and via in-person presentations by experts. More than 60 businesses registered for the Chamber’s 2011 Challenge. Learn more >>

Support Clean Energy Policies

32. PACE Legislation

Help lobby for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) legislation to reduce cost barriers for clean energy projects.

PACE legislation makes it easier and less expensive for businesses to make renewable energy or energy efficiency improvements to their buildings, which reduce energy use and improve the overall value of the property. Under PACE programs, property owners voluntarily opt in to receive financing from cities or counties for clean energy projects, such as weather sealing, insulation, energy efficient boilers and cooling systems, new windows and solar installations. They then pay off this financing through an addition to their property taxes for up to 20 years, with the repayment obligation transferring automatically to the next property owner if the property is sold.

Numerous chambers—including the Los Angeles Chamber, Prince William (VA) Chamber, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber, Cambridge Chamber, San Francisco Chamber, and many more—have supported PACE legislation in their states. If your state has yet to pass PACE legislation, bring business voices to your state legislators, emphasizing how this financing mechanism would remove barriers to greater efficiency and clean energy use in your state.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro, NC: North Carolina enacted PACE legislation (S.B. 97) In August 2009. Aaron Nelson, president and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, now advocates for PACE legislation at the federal level, speaking in Washington, DC on the economic benefits for businesses. Aaron has been in contact with other chambers around the country on the economic benefits associated with PACE, and to date, 27 states now have PACE legislation. To learn more about PACE and join their frequent webinars, visit>>

33. Smart Grid Legislation

Chambers are natural conveners on this issue. Build a broad coalition to support smart grid legislation that will modernize your local electric grid.

The smart grid incorporates digital technologies to sense and respond to electricity demand in real-time, greatly improving efficiency and reliability. With businesses and commerce increasingly reliant on reliable electricity, bringing our electric grid up to the 21st century is key in ensuring our local economies continue to grow. Build a strong coalition of supporters for smart grid legislation, including businesses, consumer groups, technology experts, environmental groups, and others. Educate legislators and the public on the economic benefits of a modernized electric grid, and support legislative efforts to pass smart grid policies.

Chicago, IL: With major online businesses, such as Groupon and Orbitz, as its members, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce took on a major leadership role in pushing for a modern, stronger, and more efficient electric grid. The Chamber built a broad alliance of advocates, used strong business-based messaging about energy reliability and job creation in its advocacy efforts, and utilized the smart grid demonstration center of a local electric company to educate the public. The Chamber’s efforts were successful—although the governor vetoed the original smart grid legislation, the veto was overturned in November 2011. Learn more>>

34. Tax Credits

Work with legislators to pass new tax measures that incentivize energy efficiency and renewable energy projects among businesses.

Encourage state legislators to enact tax credits for businesses that adopt clean energy projects. Emphasize energy savings and improved bottom lines for businesses in your region, as well as a spark for clean energy technology and service providers that would come with increased demand. Visit the U.S. Department of Energy for a comprehensive overview of incentives available in your state.

Local Massachusetts Chamber: As part of its 2012 Business Growth Agenda, one local chamber in Massachusetts sponsored legislation to increase the tax credit for energy efficiency from 3 to 5 percent. The chamber worked with member companies and legislators to address the cost concerns associated with this legislation, and revised it to place a cap on the amount a business could claim (i.e., $5,000 per year for upgrades or 20% of the project’s cost). The chamber also helped to further define the size of businesses that would be eligible to receive the credit. Ultimately, it was determined that the credit should be available for small-to-mid-size companies with 50 or fewer employees.

Lessons learned: Chambers are naturally positioned to take a leadership role on this type of advocacy. Address the cost concerns early on by capping the tax credit and defining the size of businesses eligible to receive it.

35. Clean Energy Transit Policies

Support legislative initiatives to develop and expand clean energy transit opportunities, including electric light rail, high-speed rail, and others.

Utilize chamber networks, economic growth studies, and business voices in advocating for policies that would expand existing clean energy transit projects in your region, or bring about the development of new projects. These might include electrically-powered light rail, high-speed rail, alternative-fuel public bus lines, and others. Such projects can usher in construction, maintenance, and operations jobs, and further your region’s reputation for clean energy leadership.

Twin Cities, MN: The three largest chambers in the region—the Minneapolis Regional Chamber, TwinWest Chamber, and Saint Paul Area Chamber—have formed a partnership to promote expanding Minnesota’s electrically-powered light rail transit system from Minneapolis to the southwest metro region. The chambers view the proposed Southwest Light Rail line as an economic development tool, stressing that it will increase workers’ access to jobs, reduce traffic congestion, and boost regional competitiveness. In order to build support for additional state bonding for the rail line expansion, the chambers have actively spoken with local media and commissioned a poll showing Minnesotans’ support for Southwest Light Rail. Learn more >>

San Francisco, CA: Since the early stages of high-speed rail planning in California, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has been an active pro-business voice, supporting and helping shape the project. Recognizing the economic benefits of significantly reduced travel times between San Francisco and areas further south, such as the Central Valley and Los Angeles, the Chamber engaged with planners to determine the route electrically-powered high-speed trains would take through northern California, engaged other California chambers on the issue, and generated support among the public through advocacy materials, Op-Eds, and public speaking. Construction, maintenance, and operation of California’s high-speed rail are expected to create tens of thousands of jobs for Californians. Learn more >>

36. State Policies to Encourage Clean Energy Investment

Advocate on behalf of legislation that gives investors a clear signal to invest in clean energy businesses in your state.

Bring forward business voices and economic arguments in favor of large-scale state legislation that provides investors with the certainty they need to back new and growing clean energy businesses in your state.

San Francisco, CA: The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has long been a leader in advocating for cutting-edge policies that create jobs, grow the local economy, attract investment, and spur innovation. In 2006, the Chamber became the first large business organization to support California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), which will move the state to reduce its carbon emissions through renewable energy, increased energy efficiency, building retrofits, clean cars and cleaner fuels. Thanks to the business leadership of the SF Chamber—which spoke with legislators and the press, authored Op-Eds, and signed business letters in favor of the legislation—AB 32 has now given market certainty to investors and sparked California’s clean energy economy. In fact, California leads the rest of the nation by a wide margin in clean energy investments, bringing in $3.79 billion in 2011, compared with its closest competitor, Massachusetts, at $542 million. Learn more >>