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Utilities report that sometimes they see facility managers committing mistakes when they're trying to get utility incentives. One common problem is that facility managers contact the utility too late in project planning. "If we're involved early in the process, we can optimize the energy-efficiency potential of the project and offer the most rebate dollars," says Karen Rhodes, Xcel Energy energy efficiency marketing manager. For example, a project that may not appear to have a big energy savings component can result in strong energy savings if a broad range of options are considered as part of the analysis.
Rhodes says that when considering purchasing new equipment, facility managers often will think "first of the equipment specifications and which manufacturers to consult. 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."
Peter Locke, a co-founder and managing director of TerraLocke Sustainability Consultants, has worked with facility managers on projects that obtained utility incentives, and he too emphasizes early contact with the utility. "A three-minute call to your utility contact can help ensure you don't miss an opportunity and are taking the right approach with regards to the incentive," he says, noting that many incentives require pre-approval of the incentive before a project begins.
"Some customers run into problems having to do with the specific program rules," says Allan Drury, spokesperson for Con Ed. "Customers who are considering a project should reach out to us early in the process. We'll take the difficulty out of negotiating the best program for optimal incentives that ensure compliance with program rules."
Don't assume that there isn't an incentive for whatever project you're considering, Locke says. Some utilities offer custom incentives for any energy-savings project as long as it meets the program's criteria — for example, a specific payback period.
"Nearly every equipment purchase or process improvement has energy savings potential," says Rhodes. Facility managers "just need to reach out to us early to get the best outcome."
Rhodes advises the facility manager to think of the utility as a strategic partner. "We can bring additional ideas, technical resources, and financial incentives in the form of rebates to optimize projects and better meet the customers' needs," says Rhodes.
In addition, companies would benefit from designating "an internal champion responsible for utility incentives," Locke says.
Angela Maas is a writer who covers facility issues. She was formerly the managing editor of Building Operating Management.
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