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New loans help small businesses go green

22 July 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

San Diego businesses have a new way to save money, through zero-interest loans for clean and green upgrades. The San Diego Clean Enterprise Program is offering interest-free loans up to $100,000 for small businesses to make energy- efficient improvements.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders announced the program today in Old Town, as joint effort by the City of San Diego, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and CleanTech San Diego.

“It’s a great savings for small businesses, but it’s also a great savings for the environment,” said Mayor Sanders. “By spending less money on energy to run your lights or your air-conditioning, businesses can invest more in building their businesses, employing needed workers.”

SDG&E is funding the program, which has $3 million available for the remainder of 2009, said Mitch Mitchell, a regional vice president, SDG&E. Its yearly budget for the initiative is $10 million. While the program was already in existence, supported by the Public Utilities Commission, the new partnership allows SDG&E to reach a wider group.

For businesses applying for the program, SDG&E experts go out to the business location to inspect energy use and make recommendations for upgrades, which are funded through the loans.

“It’s a great opportunity to look at your equipment and make key decisions,” said Mitchell.

The initiative will also boost job opportunities for workers in clean tech industries, said Jim Waring, chairman, CleanTech San Diego, a non-profit group. He noted that businesses that deliver energy-efficient motors, heaters and other equipment would benefit.

“Our real goal is to grow a cluster of businesses in San Diego around clean technology,” he said.

At the morning event, Norm Niles, a manager at Old town Trolley, shared how his company used the program to save on energy costs.

After changing their lights and doing other upgrades, the company cut costs by a third.

The program’s managers will partner with several business groups to spread the word, including: restaurant associations, various chambers of commerce, the South County Economic Development Council, Biocom, CommNexus and Connect. The city government will also promote the program through its various departments, such as those issuing permits.

Some 140 measures qualify for funding, including lighting services, food services and air quality. These can help companies become “green and mean,” said Sanders.

The program can also help business in tough times, said Waring.
“Businesses struggle day to day just to stay alive,” he said. “Here’s something that’s very easy. They don’t have to write a check.”

About the loans

Interest rate: 0 percent

Maximum amount: $100,000

Length of loan: Up to 10 years

Who qualifies: Small businesses under 50 employees

CleanTech San Diego

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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