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June 15, 2012 -
Power & Communication
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that understanding the rules of rebate programs may be easier said than done. In bigger cities with well-documented demand-side management programs, documentation may change year to year. But some utilities change more often than than; one electric utility changed its form six times in six months.
Utilities often require facility managers to take certain steps before an energy upgrade actually begins. Some utility agencies will accept an initial energy audit from a third party, but some may send their own people to verify original conditions. That can sometimes lead to trouble. In one instance, a facilities department ripped out an old system and dumped the motors before the utility came for the initial inspection. The facility then had to do a huge amount of work, including digging up specifications, because they didn't follow the procedure properly.
The complexity of utility rules will depend in part on the nature of the rebate program. A prescriptive program is the most common road to rebates, where a certain amount of dollars are paid for such items as variable frequency drives or lighting retrofits. For example, most utilities will pay prescriptively, by the ton, for rooftop HVAC units above a certain energy efficiency rating. Custom programs usually have a longer time line and more complex measurement and verification. Equipment such as high efficiency boilers, furnaces, or water heaters must be metered over time to show the facility is saving energy.
Custom measures offer more robust rewards, but they require another level of energy analysis that involves measurement over a certain period of time. The measurement has to technically prove energy savings, which have to be reviewed by an agency, and that can take many months. The more complex a project, the more you have to do to meet rebate requirements.