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By Desiree J. Hanford
Energy Efficiency Article Use Policy
Free money. That’s exactly what facility managers are walking away from when they fail to take advantage of available utility incentives. Changing that takes awareness, communication, and involvement with the utility company. As energy costs have risen during the past decade, utility spending on programs to encourage energy efficiency in commercial and institutional buildings has increased significantly. But many facility managers fail to act, ignoring incentives and rebate programs that could help offset the costs of updating to more energy-efficient equipment and support other green projects.
“The benefits are numerous and yet (facility managers) don’t use them,” says Charles Holcomb, segment manager of national accounts and commercial real estate for Duke Energy. “It’s free money and it’s sitting out there.”
The numerous reasons that facility managers don’t apply for incentives go hand-in-hand. For one, utilities aren’t viewed as strategic partners, Kay Rhodes, Energy Efficiency Marketing Manager for Xcel Energy, says in an email, adding that it’s the most common mistake facility managers make. She points out that Xcel Energy, for example, can offer ideas, technical resources, and rebates to “optimize projects and better meet the customers’ needs.”
The lack of involvement with their utility means that facility managers are unlikely to be having a regular dialogue about their needs and possible opportunities, another common mistake, says Harris Schaer, senior project manager for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). This can lead to facility managers not having as much information as possible on items such as energy consumption or whether new equipment meets efficiency minimums, he says.
“When a facility manager is considering buying new equipment, (s/he) thinks first of the equipment specifications and which manufacturers to consult,” says Xcel Energy’s Rhodes. “Rarely do they think of their utility partners this early in the process unless we’ve previously worked together on a project and have an established relationship.”
Customers vary when it comes to the amount of information they have, says Dave Pospisil, program manager of Con Edison’s commercial and industrial energy efficiency program. More sophisticated customers have employees who pay attention to metrics such as energy consumption, but other customers do not.
“And we don’t always know exactly how to reach those folks,” Pospisil adds. “Some facilities managers think the process is too cumbersome, and they’re worried about measurement requirements, so the customer segment is stratified.”
Both the lack of dialogue and lack of consultation with a utility lead to anther common mistake by facility managers: being unaware of the available incentives. They may know that a utility has indoor lighting incentives but they may not know it has incentives for Energy Star commercial cooking equipment, says Duke Energy’s Holcomb. Knowing what incentives are available allows facility managers to incorporate the value of the incentives into short- and longer-term planning, information that can be found on a utility’s website, he says in an email.
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