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Church Energy Series: Investing in Alternative Energy

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Churches like any other commercial buildings require large amounts of energy to operate.  Activity in churches range from office work, conferences, and meetings through the week to full blown live productions of the weekends.  All of the IT, lighting, audio visual equipment, kitchen appliances, security, heating, and air conditioning systems contribute to rising energy costs which seem to inch higher and higher into the church operating budget.  Paying more on energy bills means there is less money available for other ministry activities.

CEO’s of fortune 500 companies have looked to alternative energy as a strategy to minimize operations costs. They recognize the benefits of insuring that their facilities are efficient. While churches are not concerned with profits, most have a vision, a few goals, and measurable outcomes that they want achieve. It’s possible that an inefficient church building is weighing down progress towards achieving that vision.

If your church is serious about reducing the cost of energy on its operating budget there are two methods for reducing your energy costs.

  1. Get efficient: Cut your energy usage and waste by removing or upgrading wasteful devices and systems.
  2. Invest in alternative energy by producing your own energy.

We’ve discussed at length how to cut your energy use and waste in earlier posts in the Church Energy Series. I also have developed a church energy savings plan that you can download for free if you are looking to get a quick start at it.

Now we’re shifting into the second part of the strategy, investing in alternative energy. Once your church has done all that it can to eliminate wasteful electronics and systems, it’s time the church considers producing its own energy.

Should Churches Invest In Alternative Energy?

Investment in alternative energy allows churches to produce their own energy to offset their energy costs, cover 100% of their energy needs, or produce extra energy that can be sent back to the utility to support the community.

There are five factors that make investment in alternative energy very exciting for churches.

1. Prices have come down, A LOT.

Take solar for instance.  The NC Clean Energy Technology Center measured the median hardware cost of a solar  system prior to incentives has declined from $12/Watt installed in 1998 to around $4.70/Watt installed in 2013, a 60%+ decline. By Q3 2014, the price had declined even further to between $3.70/Watt-$4.24/Watt before incentives.”

2. Incentives

Your church can save a ton of money with state and local incentives ranging from cash back rebates to 0% financing at a participating bank. Check with your local jurisdictions and local alternative energy professionals for all of the incentives currently available to you. Keep in mind that most incentive programs are time sensitive and may expire.

3. They pay for themselves.

The payback period, calculated during the planning process is based on total cost to install, rebates, incentives, cost of operation, and energy rates. Expect most payback periods to be between 10-20 years or less as prices continue to fall.

4. Use alternative energy to advance your mission.

Reducing energy costs in the operation budget allows churches to focus more resources on its mission.  An addition, alternative energy produced at the church can serve the community by reducing the churches environmental impact and offsetting the energy load in the community. This is a new ministry opportunity for the church and a platform for the church within the community as good stewards of its energy resources.

5. The Church is king of crowdsourcing

When many people come together to fund church projects, we eliminate the obstacle of high upfront costs. If you believe that your congregation will rally around an alternative energy project, consider adding it to plans for new facilities, renovations, or as a standalone capital campaign.

Get the Conversation Started!

If you haven’t considered alternative energy for your church before reading this, now is a great time to get this conversation going at your church.  Next time, we’ll break down how your church can be influencers of energy stewardship.

Source: NC Clean Energy Technology Center

 

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