Cashing In

How electrical engineers, contractors, and designers can cash in on rebate and tax deduction programs offered by the state/federal government and local electric utilities

If you're not taking advantage of rebate and tax deduction programs offered by your state, the federal government, and electric utilities in your area, you're not doing yourself or your customers any favors. Monetary incentives for these programs run the gamut from installation of insulation, water heaters, high-efficiency windows, and HVAC systems to solar, wind, and fuel cell power generation systems. Although these types of programs were developed for a variety of reasons, they can all help kick-start our struggling economy back into a spending groove.

Because our theme for this month's issue is lighting, I thought it would be worthwhile to point out a few programs targeting this product area. Keep these in mind when speaking to your best prospects in the coming weeks and months.

In the fall of 2008, Congress extended the Commercial Building Tax Deduction through 2013. This piece of legislation allows building owners to claim a deduction of up to $1.80 per sq ft for HVAC, lighting, or building envelope upgrades, resulting in 50% savings over ANSI/ASHRAE/ESNA Standard 90.1-2001. Partial reductions that provide a $0.30 to $0.60 per sq ft deduction for improvements in lighting efficiency are also still in effect. And if the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Washington, D.C., gets its wish, Congress will increase the commercial buildings tax deduction from $1.80 per sq ft to $3.00 per sq ft. This was just one recommendation set forth in AIA's recently released Rebuild and Renew Plan.

You should also pay close attention to your local electric utility rebate programs. A wonderful resource for these types of programs is the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE), which is an ongoing project of the North Carolina Solar Center, Raleigh, N.C., and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), Latham, N.Y. This project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C. IREC's mission is to accelerate the use of renewable energy sources and technologies in and through state and local government and community activities. According to the DSIRE Web site, on average, about 60 programs are verified or updated each month. But be advised, the dollars set aside in these programs can be gobbled up quickly. If you don't act fast, you and your clients could find yourselves on a waiting list — or totally out of luck.

One example from this database is the 2009 Commercial/Industrial and Area Lighting Efficiency Program offered by the Nebraska Public Power District. This program offers per-fixture incentives for replacement of older technology HID, MH, and incandescent lamps/luminaires with newer fluorescent lamp/luminaire products. Customer incentives range from $6 to $10 per lamp and $20 to $75 per luminaire. A second example comes from the Northeast. Public Service of New Hampshire, in collaboration with nhsaves, offers prescriptive rebates for a variety of lighting systems and control devices. According to the site, eligible retrofit projects may qualify for a rebate equal to the lesser of 35% of the total cost or buy down to one-year payback. I saw similar programs in several other areas of the country.

As we muddle through this economic slump, lighting upgrade projects should be high on your list of service offerings. Not only do they make good sense for you on a profitability level, but they also make great sense for your clients. If you're not exactly sure how to get started on finding and selling these types of projects to your clients, then turn to page 26 and start reading this month's cover story, “Selling Up Without Selling Out.” With the help of some key contributors, Staff Writer Beck Ireland has developed a list of eight tips that will help you close that next big deal.

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