Building Operating Management

Utility Rebate Programs Can Help Get Energy Efficiency Projects Off The Ground

Last year, the Hays (Texas) Consolidated Independent School District undertook an effort to replace and retrofit interior lighting. The normal reasons for doing such a project — saving money and reducing energy usage — were motivating factors, says R.C. Herrin, executive director of maintenance and operations. But a utility rebate program made work the district was already going to do an even more attractive option, helping to get the energy efficiency program off the ground.

That work included replacement of about 2,000 32-watt T8s with 28-watt lamps and retrofit of 320- and 250-watt HID fixtures with 72-watt T5 high output fixtures.

"We probably spent $100,000 in equipment and we were reimbursed $20,000 of that, and we also reduced demand by reducing that interior lighting," Herrin says. The lighting project reduced demand by 68.5 kW, Herrin says, or 22 percent.

Significant savings like those are why facility managers love rebate programs, but to take advantage of the programs that are available, it's a good idea to develop a solid working relationship with the utility. That may be easier to do than it's been in the past. As the power grid infrastructure has aged and energy efficiency has become more important, many utilities have begun to focus more attention on commercial and institutional customers. Their goal is not only to ease the strain on the grid, but also to save money for both parties.

One driving force behind more utility engagement is that data on consumption and spending is becoming more readily available, and not just to companies that can afford to have energy experts on staff, says Lisa Wood, executive director, Institute for Electric Efficiency, and vice president, The Edison Foundation. Specialized companies that offer energy consulting and advice can help commercial customers obtain and analyze their energy data so that those companies can be well informed on current conditions and goals when they talk to their utilities about possible programs.

"Utilities have traditionally been sort of energy advisers to customers, but I think there's just more focus now on working directly with customers," says Wood. "Part of that is because the technology's there, the data's there, and, then, a lot of these little (service) companies are jumping in with analytics."

Lessons Learned

Utilities have a lot of experience working with facility managers to put in place energy efficiency measures to qualify for incentives. Here are some lessons learned for facility managers.

Data integration issues can arise, even if you've got a newer building with the technology and people necessary to operate it efficiently. Be generous when budgeting the time it will take to get your building automation or energy management system to talk to the utility's applications.

Monitoring and metering can usually be implemented faster than automated fault detection and diagnostics. However, fault detection and diagnostics can not only report energy usage, but also immediately alert facility managers to problems or potential problems with equipment.

Make sure the energy management team includes someone who is on-site at the facility or facilities. While the program can be managed overall by someone such as a corporate energy manager, having on-site team members helps ensure that operations are sticking to the desired parameters.

Understand the rewards of meeting the goals. Not only can these be motivators to ensure that usage goals are met, it can help you make a more comprehensive case to the financial department if there's an upfront investment required.

— Casey Laughman

Continue Reading: Utilities: Cashing In

Utility Rebate Programs Can Help Get Energy Efficiency Projects Off The Ground

Changes To Utility Rebate And Incentive Programs Show Importance Of Good Relationship With Utility

How Utilities, Customers Can Both Continue To Benefit From Incentive Programs

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  posted on 10/21/2013   Article Use Policy

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