Good business sense
Peter Millar, Business Environmental Program
According to energy specialist Peter Millar, making businesses more sustainable isn’t just about the environment—it’s also fiscally smart for small businesses in a struggling economy.
Millar began working with local businesses as part of the Business Environmental Program through the University of Nevada, Reno three years ago (“Nice save,” July 21, 2011). Essentially, Millar consults with business owners and evaluates workspaces, looking for areas to save energy and cut back on energy costs. Millar has a background in engineering and attended Stanford, but tries to keep his evaluations of businesses applicable to the business owners.
“One of the biggest challenges is to translate the numbers and ideas into action,” he says. “A lot of people aren’t very technical and they may not understand or appreciate the numbers. They need to see it, feel it, trust it. So I’ve been doing it all, approaching it from all angles—educational, giving seminars.”
Millar’s projects have included businesses and nonprofits such as the National Automobile Museum.
“We were able to make significant changes just by changing their lights out,” he says. “I don’t want to simplify that kind of project, because it took a year to decide on which lights to use. But overall the result was really good. They are saving $30,000 a year. The project paid for itself.”
When Millar works with a business, he starts by getting to know the business owner. Then he’ll take an inventory of the workspace’s appliances, lights and technology. He’ll also get energy bills and documents to calculate operating costs, and is able to break down energy usage into 15 minute segments, indicating what drives the workspace’s peak energy use. After this, he is able to give recommendations to the business owner and can help with project implementation.
Millar also mines the data of the city to look at similar buildings that have been retrofitted with sustainable equipment. This gives Millar a chance to see where energy and money are being wasted within the state. In his research, Millar has calculated more than $1 billion in energy costs spent in Nevada over the past year.
“We pay for natural gas and coal from other places,” he says. “It’s importing energy to a state that has a lot of alternative resources.
For the most part, Millar says that he’s had a positive response from the community. But there are people who still remain skeptical about climate change and may not see the value of transitioning to new sources of power. While he says he keeps political discussions and environmental advocacy to a minimum with his clients, “I’m starting to loosen up about those kinds of things.”
“I don’t mind talking about it sometimes, because it does play a role,” he says. “It’s just business sense, it’s national security, and it’s independence from reliance on coal and natural gas. I tend toward sustainable thinking, not just with business, but as an embodied truth. The less we depend on goods shipped from China, or even Kansas—the less we do that, the more resilient we are.”