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Facility managers across all sectors tend to overlook incentives, but Holcomb notes that large national retail chains and income-producing or investment properties especially tend not to take advantage of them.
The retail chains typically have an individual who is in charge of overseeing the construction of as many as 500 stores, so that person doesn’t have time to research incentives for each utility, look for invoices, and gather the required information that each utility needs. “They’re building a store, so they forego many available incentives because they don’t have the time or the bandwidth,” Holcomb says in an email.
For investment properties, the perception is the landlord doesn’t get reimbursed for spending more on efficient equipment or making efficiency upgrades because the utility bill gets divided and passed to the tenants. But for a number of reasons, that’s a “gross” misperception, Holcomb says, including that there may be lease provisions allowing for reimbursement in the operating expense section. Also, several studies show Energy Star-rated buildings fetch higher rents and have higher occupancy rates.
The steps that facility managers can take to ensure they are utilizing all the incentives available to them are the same, experts say, as they’ve always been. Incentive programs change based on funding, but the basics of good planning, involving knowledgeable people, and seeking good advice never change, says Con Edison’s Pospisil.
Reaching out to the utility and initiating a conversation is a good place to begin, says Xcel Energy’s Rhodes. It’s also worth checking utility websites to help with research, so that no products or services are being overlooked.
Pospisil says that utilities can do a better job of outreach, adding much more value if they act as advisers to customers. Utilities have experts who can work with facility managers to find incentives that are applicable to their situation, giving facility managers the confidence they need to act.
“So instead of just sending the application, we’d like to get involved earlier in the process and give them helpful advice as to what would be best,” he says. “Large real estate firms in New York know more about the programs than we do, but our message to others is that if you’re doing nothing, you’re losing money.”
Duke Energy’s Holcomb said a facility manager should also involve, where applicable, the architectural and engineering community, a group that is often overlooked. Networking with peers and actively participating in industry associations to share best practices is also a good idea.
“Find out what your peers are doing right,” Holcomb says. “People are always willing to share what they did right. Go out, find out what they did and copy it. We want our customers to be successful even if they are using less of our product.”
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