Utility Incentives Can Mean Millions Of Dollars In Savings
For facility managers who put the time and effort into looking, incentives can mean serious money. SL Green Realty Corp. has received $1.75 million in incentives for efficiency projects the company has done in the New York metropolitan area (which includes parts of Westchester County and Connecticut) since 2009, reports Jay Black, director of sustainability. The projects cost an estimated $7 million, according to Black.
Black works with one vendor or agency at a time on each project, picking from several incentive pools. "We work with our vendors, consultants, and our own experts," Black says. "They know how to navigate [the incentive pools] quickly and fluidly."
Identifying opportunities for rebates and incentives is a collaborative process. "Lots of people here are aware of incentives," Black says, and he also relies on the utilities themselves and vendors to develop opportunities, as well as consultants, who can perform in-depth building analyses. "Consultants can tell us how much money we can access," explains Black. "It is a very specialized field to understand, and every agency has different programs. It is a dynamic system, with programs changing all the time. To keep on top of those changes, you have to work collaboratively."
SAP uses a combination of internal resources and vendor support to capture rebates, and the utility companies themselves are also important partners, says Larry Morgan, senior facilities manager, SAP Labs. Projects vary, from LED lighting to water efficiency to variable frequency drives.
Casting A Wide Net
Holesko relies on local suppliers or contractors to identify opportunities, and internal experts also do their homework. They cultivate relationships with electric suppliers, for example. "In some markets the suppliers come to us," Holesko says.
Casting a wide net is important for an organization with a national portfolio. For example, HEI recently retrofit properties in San Francisco and Long Beach, Calif., with low-flow toilets that were essentially free. "California water suppliers were giving the toilets away," he said. The toilet suppliers came to people at HEI to inform them about this opportunity.
Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, which is very active in the rebate market, HEI received $46,000 in rebates for the Liberty Hotel in Boston; $42,000 was related to the replacement of MR16s with LEDs, and the rest was for a variable frequency drive.
"If you snooze you lose," Holesko explains. "If you wait too long to approve a project, the money can be gone." Utilities want to go through the rebate money as quickly as possible so that they can see energy savings fairly quickly. The utilities will often first approach companies that they know can get quick approvals. "We are on the same page," he said, "and want to get projects done as quickly as possible."
Maryellen Lo Bosco is an Asheville, N.C.-based freelance writer who covers facility management and technology. She is a contributing editor for Building Operating Management.