An Alaska Energy Authority program will subsidize energy efficiency assessments for roughly 40 commercial building owners in Alaska. The public corporation’s aim is to reduce energy costs in Alaska, and it says the assessments are the first step for owners to reduce their power bills.

Katie Conway with the Alaska Energy Authority says the first way to reduce energy costs is to be more efficient. And an assessment is the first step.

“In order to implement energy efficiency measures you really need to start with a road-map so you can identify exactly what should be done,” she says.

The audit program is paid for with a roughly $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program.

The grant funds 75 percent of each applicant’s audit. Conway says these building owners can expect to pay $150 to $500 for their portion of the bill, depending on the size of their property.

Audits address how updating things like lighting, heating and ventilation systems, and user behavior can offset energy costs.

“You can make some big improvements with not very much effort or money. Now there are sometimes bigger things, like if you need to add insulation to your building that can be a bigger effort. But still, we’re talking in the bigger picture relatively small measures for some pretty significant savings,” Conway says.

Conway says while this gives property owners a blue print for what they can adjust themselves, it is an essential step to receiving further USDA funding to pay for these upgrades.

“You must start with an audit in order to be eligible for those grants and loans. The building owner has to have an audit in hand,” she says.

Nationwide, the USDA allocated more than $35 million in grants and $560 million in loans for Rural Energy for America Program projects. This money funds businesses in rural areas needing renewable and energy efficiency upgrades.

The audit program is open to commercial building owners in Alaska, but outside of Anchorage. This doesn’t apply to non-profits, municipalities or residential buildings, though larger apartment building owners are eligible. The program awards audits monthly until the funds run out. The next deadline is Aug. 31.