The COVID-19 pandemic has been brutal for restaurants. Beneficial electrification has the potential to save them money, but upgrading equipment can be a hard sell in a business where every dime counts.

Great River Energy, a G&T based in Maple Grove, Minnesota, has found a way, working with its member cooperatives, to let restaurateurs experience the savings that come with even modest upgrades. The co-ops are offering a Commercial Kitchen Savings Kit that includes LED bulbs for walk-in freezers and coolers, faucet aerators and a refrigerator coil cleaning brush.

“The kit’s not a very expensive item, but it can help a member save quite a bit of energy, depending on what they’ve been doing,” says John Bosman, business accounts specialist at East Central Energy based in Braham, Minnesota, which has distributed the kits.

The kit also serves as a way to begin a conversation about the benefits of electrifying other equipment, taking advantage of co-op rebates and other incentives. A 2017 NRECA study found electric commercial kitchen appliances can offer greater efficiency and cleaner, safer operations.

“I think the education piece is probably the most valuable,” Bosman says. “It opens up a lot of opportunities for us to talk to members.”

The kits are free, but recipients are asked to fill out an inventory sheet that logs their potential energy savings, which will help GRE meet state requirements requiring utilities to track energy efficiency measures.

Rodney De Fouw, GRE’s member electrification strategist, says the potential benefits to both co-ops and businesses are significant. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found commercial kitchens use more than double the energy per square foot than other commercial facilities.

“Commercial kitchen space is the most energy-intensive square footage of any commercial space,” De Fouw says. “Our intent is to make more people aware of how electric food service equipment can help them save money, produce food safer and sometimes faster, and also benefit the environment.”