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August 10, 2020

Partners for a Clean Environment launches Small Business Equity Program

Program provides grants for food service equipment and lighting upgrades for small businesses

Boulder County, Colo. – Boulder County, in partnership with the City of Boulder, launched a Small Business Equity Program, a new initiative by Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE), to help small businesses save energy and money by replacing outdated restaurant/grocery equipment and lighting. PACE created two separate grant offerings: a restaurant and grocery equipment grant and an outdated lighting upgrade bonus both covering up to 70% of project costs.

Historically, businesses that engage with PACE services have greater staff capacity and access to communications networks and capital, which allows them to better make use of government support to advance their energy saving and sustainability goals. Boulder County and the City of Boulder created the Small Business Equity Program to better support underrepresented and energy burdened small businesses. Restaurants and grocery stores have some of the highest energy costs per square foot of any small business, often relying on decades old equipment. Updating equipment with newer, more efficient models translates into significant savings in energy usage and costs, leading to reduced climate impact while helping preserve small, local businesses in our community.

For businesses that meet the program criteria, PACE is offering upfront grants to cover up to 70% of equipment replacement costs through funding from Boulder County and the City of Boulder’s Climate Action Plan tax.

To be eligible for this program, businesses must meet the following criteria:

  • Business is located within Boulder County. Minority-owned businesses are highly encouraged to apply.
  • Restaurants must be under 2,000 sq. ft. and other businesses must be under 5,000 sq. ft.

Restaurant and Grocery Equipment Grant:

  • Existing equipment must be manufactured in 2005 or earlier.
  • Commercial equipment included in the grant: refrigerators, freezers, merchandisers, dishwashers, ice machines.

Outdated Lighting Upgrade Bonus:

  • T12 fluorescent or incandescent lighting only.

During the 2019 pilot of this program, Asian Seafood Market in Boulder replaced 11 doors of freezers, six doors of refrigeration, and one large produce display case. Each piece of equipment was more than 30 years old. Their old equipment contributed to utility bills of more than $1,000 per month and maintenance costs more than $1,500 each year. Asian Seafood Market is now saving 60% on their utility bill and more than $8,000 per year when combined with avoided maintenance costs. They also reduced their contribution to climate change by 50 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.

“Without this grant there is no way we could have made this happen,” said Maria Nguyen, owner of Asian Seafood Market.

This local government support program is especially timely as many small businesses have been severely strained by the pandemic, making equipment replacement or repair even more challenging. “We are a small family run business. We try to be as environmentally friendly as possible, but sometimes the steps we want to take are cost prohibitive,” said Christian Saber, chef-owner of Rincon Argentino and pilot program participant. “We [had] been wanting to replace our old inefficient refrigerators … but the cost made it difficult. This program made the upgrades we wanted to complete possible.”

More information, a full list of eligibility requirements, and applications can be found at:

About the Program and Partners:

PACE began in 1993 as a partnership of local governments and businesses committed to creating a business community with environmentally sustainable practices. Since then, PACE has continued to evolve and expand its offerings as the one-stop-shop for business sustainability in Boulder County.

In 2019, PACE and the City of Boulder launched a pilot of the Small Business Equity Program. The businesses participating in the pilot reported benefits of their new energy-efficient food service equipment, including reduced utility bills. Over $108,000 of grant funding was awarded to 10 restaurants and small grocery stores, resulting in $20,389 in annual energy cost savings and an estimated 226,519 in annual kWh savings — the equivalent of powering approximately 27 average Colorado households for an entire year.

The City of Boulder is committed to co-developing a new climate action plan with the community that addresses the climate emergency through systemic change, with equity at its center. Learn more at

For more information about this program, contact PACE Small Business Equity Program administrator Zachary Swank at

For more information about Boulder County’s sustainability mission and to learn about other programs, visit or contact Christian Herrmann at


Mission of the Office of Sustainability, Climate Action & Resilience

Our mission is to advance policies and programs that conserve resources, protect the environment, and safeguard our climate in order to build a sustainable, just, and resilient community.