Persistently High Electricity Costs Unrelated to Supply Chain Woes

While most small-medium businesses struggle with supply chain disruptions and higher costs, they’re also dealing with higher electricity prices. Across the U.S., electricity costs at least 20% more than it did a year ago. In some places it’s 80% more. Why?

As we related in January, natural gas drives electricity prices. Natural gas exports from the U.S. in 2021 shot up 50% compared to the year before. This is partly price-driven, because natural gas prices in Asia and Europe are always higher.

But there’s more to it than just prices. To sell to those faraway markets, the gas has to be liquified and transported in tankers. Liquifying gas requires huge and expensive facilities, and in the last 5 years the U.S. has built SEVEN TIMES more export capacity.

As a result, we’re now the world’s largest gas exporter–which pushes up domestic electricity prices. This upward pressure will be with us for years, because more export capacity has been built and even more is being built.

The silver lining is that renewable energy–already cheaper than fossil fuels for large companies–is now cost-effective for small-medium businesses, as well. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.

Lower Bill, Stronger Brand

How can you win more customers and simultaneously save money? We’ll show you!

Large businesses are getting cheaper energy that happens to be cleaner. They’re using “cleaner” to engage more customers, win more contracts and even attract more employees. Now, small-medium businesses can do it, too.

It’s all about finding your best-fit solution, and adjusting your branding and marketing. You can have it all!

CEOs Meghan Lynch of 6-Point Creative and Malcolm Smith of Sustaine are excited to show you how in 30 short minutes. You’re invited to register for this free webinar on Wednesday, March 2, at 12 noon ET. Please join us!

Register here!

Triple Win For Small Businesses

Increasingly, businesses are recognizing a triple win with renewable energy. First, renewables provide a win for our world by reducing the ravages of climate change. Second, the business wins by reducing its energy costs. In most places, renewable alternatives now cost LESS than fossil-fueled power. (Here’s why.) Third, renewable energy provides a marketing advantage. It is helping both B2C and B2B businesses win more and better customers.

Let’s drill down on that marketing piece. It applies whether a business sells directly to consumers or primarily to other businesses. Recent data shows that 88% of consumers want the companies they purchase from to help them be more sustainable, so they are attracted to businesses that use renewable energy. Businesses, too, are looking to their supply chains for sustainability. In fact, 65% of businesses include a sustainability metric in their purchasing decisions. B2B or B2C, cheaper and cleaner energy means more business, too.

Of course, renewable energy is available in many different forms. Large companies hire expensive consultants to figure it all out for them. Sustaine has written software that does the same thing for small businesses. Now they, too, can realize their best energy solution–and secure their triple win. Here’s how easy it is.

Electric Rates Are Up — To Stay

Fossil-fired electricity prices went up significantly in the last six months of 2021 across the entire U.S. In California prices went up 37% year-over-year. The Midwest saw a 97% rise. You get the picture. Even worse, the increases are here to stay.

How can this be? Natural gas prices drive electricity prices, and gas is much more expensive now. That’s partly a post-Covid shortage, but it’s more a result of natural gas exports. Large gas-exporting facilities recently came online in the U.S. Now large volumes of domestic gas are being sold to pricey Asian and European markets, rather than captive to domestic consumption. In other words, local natural gas prices are now linked to higher world prices. The infrastructure has been built, so the linkage is here to stay.

US natural gas exports to higher priced foreign markets are up 700% in 5 years. They will go higher in 2022. Natural gas is the marginal fuel for electricity, which means that natural gas prices set electricity prices. 

How to respond? There are two basic ways to reduce energy costs. One is to access cheaper renewable options. The other is to use less energy by increasing your efficiency. Most states have incentive programs to help. But they are as confusing as they are plentiful. To sort through the complexity, Sustaine’s free Energy Scorecard is a great place to start.

Maine Energy Costs Going WAY Up

If your business buys electricity from Central Maine Power, prices for all of 2022 are up a whopping 82%. (Compare same month prices in 2022 to 2021.) If you’re in Versant, it’s 77%. Ouch!

If you’re buying power from the utility, brace yourself. (For help, see below.) Bills arriving in February – April will be about TWICE as much as last year. After that, the increase is only 25-30% for the rest of 2022. Not good news.

How can this be? Much higher exports of natural gas are the root cause, as we explain in another post.

What can you do? Plenty. In Maine you actually have a lot of options to manage electricity prices. In fact, there are so many choices (Maine has 44 different energy programs ) that it gets confusing quickly. Regardless, the best way to control energy costs–and this is key–is to move away from grid-based fossil-fueled electricity. A great place to start is with Sustaine’s free Energy Scorecard. From a single bill, Sustaine’s software ranks all the options for a given facility, revealing which option provides the greatest savings with the least effort. This includes renewable options as well as efficiency and competitive purchasing.

Indeed, if you’re already purchasing electricity competitively, you may be sheltered from the worst for 2022. Regardless, look now at multi-year competitive pricing. And if you’re supplied by CMP or Versant, let’s look right now: The worst prices are in the first quarter of 2022. Now is the perfect time to act.

Here’s more good news: Most solutions are available with no money down. Near-term solutions like competitive purchasing and community solar won’t cost you anything. In fact, even long-term solutions like onsite solar and efficiency improvements include financing. You’ll realize net savings from the very first month. So what are you waiting for?

If you’re ready to take control of your energy costs, and push back on CMP and Versant with their 80% price increases, it’s easy with Sustaine. Let’s get started.

Energy Scorecard: Sneak Peak

Sustaine’s unique and powerful software generates a customized Energy Scorecard from a single utility bill. The Scorecard reveals which of your energy options will deliver the most savings with the least effort–and it’s absolutely free.

Sustaine’s software reveals where the savings are. Our value-added service (also free!) secures the solution via competitive bids and delivers the savings to you.

To get your free Energy Scorecard and realize easy energy savings, simply contact Sustaine. We’re here to help.

Sustaine In the News: Berkshire Trade & Commerce

Sustaine is headquartered in the beautiful Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts. The Berkshire region is a wonderful place to live and work, especially when you have a national market for your business like Sustaine does.

It’s terrific to get attention from the local press, too. Berkshire Trade & Commerce (Sep 2021, p. 26) published this article about Sustaine that is particularly well-written. If you’d like to know a lot about Sustaine in just 3 minutes, it’s a great source.

Eversource-Western MA Rates Going Way Up

If you are supplied by Eversource in Western Massachusetts, get ready to pay a lot more. Starting January 1, small business rates are going up 46%. Oh, and you’ll pay more at home, too: Residential rates are going up 45%.

As we’ve previously written, prices do change seasonally, and it’s important to compare a full year of prices. But increases this large are 10-20% higher than even the last three winters. So it’s alarming.

Why is this happening? Electric rates follow natural gas prices. Natural gas world-wide is in a supply crunch as we recover from the pandemic. That’s pushing prices up.

Should you worry? If you have a competitive supply contract through 2022, you should be protected. If you’re part of a community choice aggregation, you probably are safe, too. If you don’t understand those terms, or if you aren’t sure what your situation is, the answers are likely buried in your electric bill. We’d be happy to take a look and explain your bill to you.

What can you do? Plenty. Massachusetts has some of the best energy incentives in the country. In most of Western Mass, you can access renewable energy AND save money, just like the Berkshire Innovation Center did. And you can do it via the electric grid, or with onsite renewables–so savings are available whether you own or rent your business. Oh, and you can save at home, too.

Sustaine will help you through all of this costly confusion. You do have choices! We’re here to help you identify and secure them, if you have 30 seconds to answer 3 simple questions.

Cleaner & Cheaper Energy for Berkshire Innovation Center

Sustaine is pleased to help the Berkshire Innovation Center take control of its energy usage. Switching to renewable energy saves the BIC money, saves carbon, and shows other businesses that they can have cleaner AND cheaper energy, too.

The Berkshire Innovation Center and Ben Sosne, Executive Director

BIC Executive Director Ben Sosne adds, “As a non-profit public-private partnership focused on technology and innovation, we are very conscious of both our carbon footprint and our budgetary constraints.  That said, the options and incentives available were a bit overwhelming for us to navigate.  Sustaine simplified everything, helping us get 100% local clean energy, while also securing a 10% discount on our electric bill.  It was a no-brainer and we now regularly refer them to all the businesses we work with.”

Sustaine loves working with you, BIC!

Comparing Energy Rates

Utility rates are like tax rates. They’re set by government agencies. Your CPA understands tax rules, and helps you minimize your tax bill. To help you understand utility rules, and minimize your electric bill, consider this:

Buying power from electricity suppliers that compete with your utility may save you money, or it may not. Always compare any rate you’re offered with a full year of prices from your utility. Comparisons to the utility’s “current price” are suspect, because energy prices vary widely with the season. Only make a choice based on the 12-month average.

Do you need help finding a full year of prices from your utility? Sustaine can point you to it. Or if you’d like to see comparative savings from ALL of your energy options–including renewables and efficiency–Sustaine can help with that, too. Contact us!