Mich. business grows by saving building owners money

By Ariana Gonzalez

Amanda Godward owns a pair of energy efficiency businesses located near Detroit. At a recent meeting hosted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV), Godward was one of about a dozen energy efficiency business leaders who spoke with state legislators about the industry’s future in Michigan.

Business leaders like Godward – whose companies, Ecotelligent Homes and Ecotelligent Buildings, are helping to improve Michigan’s environment and economy – explained to the lawmakers in attendance that when it comes to energy efficiency, good government policies not only help businesses save money, they also stimulate private-sector job growth.

Jobs in Michigan’s building energy-efficiency sector include contractors, suppliers, engineers, and auditors. Positions like these design, install and evaluate energy-saving solutions for Michigan’s residential, commercial and industrial building stock. This helps make our homes more comfortable, lowers our energy bills, and ensures Michigan’s businesses remain cost-competitive.

In an interview conducted by NRDC, Godward spoke about her business and the future opportunities she sees in energy efficiency:

NRDC: How did you get your business started?

Godward: I was unhappy working as a mechanical engineer in the auto industry. I wanted to combine my technical skills with my environmental passion. I took classes and earned a few different green certifications and after doing some job shadowing and research I discovered energy auditing was a perfect fit.

NRDC: How has your business grown or changed over the years?

Godward: I started Ecotelligent Homes in 2009 while still working as a mechanical engineer. At that time I only provided independent energy audits. I discovered that my customers would have me do a detailed energy audit on their home but would not act on any of my recommendations. Since implementing the improvements is what actually helps the environment, I earned my Builder’s License and formed relationships with subcontractors to start implementing the improvements. In 2011, I was awarded a citywide energy efficiency contract and that’s when I left my engineering job to concentrate on Ecotelligent Homes full time. In 2012, we expanded into commercial energy audits and efficiency improvements with Ecotelligent Buildings. We are continuing to build up our residential and commercial teams of technicians and energy auditors. My goal for 2014 is to bring some of the subcontracted work in-house, such as insulation and building envelope improvements.

NRDC: What is your project load like?

Godward: We have done over 20 commercial energy audits since we added Ecotelligent Buildings in 2012, and we have completed over 400 residential energy audits and installed over 150 energy efficiency improvements. On the commercial side we had a great project at Lake Erie Transit which is a bus depot in Monroe, Mich. It’s roughly a 35,000-square-foot building and that was recently renovated to improve energy efficiency and our ASHRAE [Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers] Level 2 energy audit identified roughly $45,000 worth of improvements that would pay for themselves in less than three and a half years. We oversaw the installation of energy efficient florescent lighting, LED lighting, HVAC commissioning, and building envelope improvements.

NRDC: What would you like to see from state policy?

Godward: I would like to see a long-term plan that allows all aspects of the energy efficiency industry from customers, contractors, and the utilities to make wise long-term decisions and investments. I think one of the major areas where the structure of the policy could be improved is to capture the lifecycle savings of energy efficiency measures. For example, insulation will last (at least) 30 years, but when Ecotelligent installs insulation for a homeowner, the utilities and the state are only claiming the energy savings of the measure for the first year it was installed. Perhaps if there were incentives for the utilities to implement the deeper retrofits and claim a longer-term or lifecycle savings – like them being able to claim the savings for a longer period of time – we would see lasting energy efficiency improvements.

This interview originally appeared on NRDC’s Switchboard in December 2013. The introduction to the interview has been edited.

Photo credit: Ecotelligent Homes, via Switchboard