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Understanding Colorado Utility Energy Rebates with Jason Solis from the TLA Outside Sales Team

Jun 8, 2022 | Tech Corner

By Jason M. Solis

Hi, it’s Jason Solis from the TLA Outside Sales Department. I’m here to talk about three things you need to know to understand Lighting Rebates from your local utility and the programs and resources available in your area.

3 keys to understanding lighting rebates

To get us started, there are three keys to understanding lighting rebates.

1. Utility lighting rebates are nothing new, but they have caught on over the last 10 years or so

Let’s dig deeper into where these rebates come from. If a utility offers a lighting rebate program, it is probably because the rate payers help fund such rebates.  Lighting has a very good energy savings story that makes lighting a great avenue for Utilities to offer rebates.

So next time you look at your electric bill, you may see a tax or fee that identifies that these funds are going to the rebate pot.  It is great that many utilities do offer programs to a business or homeowner to help offset the costs of the lighting upgrade.

Below is an example of what this fee for the fund may look like.

Example of fee on electricity bill

 

According to BriteSwitch, 70% of utilities offer some type of lighting rebate program. Some utilities offer new construction rebates to ensure the owner installs the most efficient equipment available in a new building, but most of the rebates are to incentivize the owner to retrofit or remodel their lighting system. How are the rebates paid out?  The utility will cut the building owner, or whoever pays the utility bill, a check once the work is done and verified.  It is real money!

35% of buildings converted to LED — wow, that’s a lot of opportunities to save big on energy. This tells me that 65% of existing buildings have old lighting technology that should be updated to LED. If you want to attract new tenants or new employees, new lighting and lighting controls are really important to make a space feel updated and modern; rebates help pay for this!

 

Chart of LED Market Adoption

 

This means to take out old wattage guzzling, light flickering, non-dimming, noise humming, not much light emitting, barely on lighting to a more beautiful, controllable, brighter, quieter, and more efficient LED lighting system.

Ahh, what screams nature more in life than new lighting?

 

2. Typically, the new lighting system will save about 50% in energy savings from the previous lighting system and if you include smart lighting controls, it can save another 25% in energy

That’s right, the owner can save about 75% in energy with a new approved lighting system.   

 

DLC approved logo

 

When I say approved, I mean you need to work with your local utility rep to ensure you are installing the right lighting system that will behave and save the way it is supposed to.

The Lighting Agency can help you with all of this and even show you an ROI for the lighting upgrade (contact your favorite TLA Sales Rep for more information!)

ROI means Return on Investment. In most cases, the new lighting fixture needs to be DLC approved. A DLC fixture needs a 5-year warranty, needs to pass some engineering and technical tests, and performs to certain standards such as efficiency standards to ensure maximum energy savings over the existing lighting system— think of DLC like Energy Star ratings for appliances.

Lighting controls are key; they make you turn lights on when you need them, and they allow lights not to stay on while you leave.  There’s no sense in having the lighting burn energy when you are gone from your office or conference room.

They also allow you to dim them to your liking depending on the time of day or your mood; maybe after lunch, you want those lights to be at full brightness to help keep you awake, whereas first thing in the morning, you want to light levels to be dim until you get your 2nd cup of coffee.

Below is an image of what integrated and smart controls look like:

 

Acuity nLight integrated and smart controls example

 

Many LED fixtures are now tunable, allowing the user to change the color temperature of the light from warm to cool or somewhere in between, depending on their mood or sensitivity to overhead lighting.

Below is an example of a classroom where through tunable LED lighting and lighting controls, the teacher can change the color temperature of the room depending on if it’s reading time, nap time, or playtime. The ranges can be from 2700k to 6500K in color temperature, and dimming is also available.

 

Example of tunable white range lighting acuity brands

3. The goal is to slow the meter down on how much energy an owner uses every day; the less you use, the less you get charged by the utility so that 75% savings can really add up

 

 

Keep in mind that lighting is only a percentage of what your electric utility bill is, so you may also have to look at what else is guzzling energy in your building or home… electric heat, refrigeration, big equipment etc. and at what times does this equipment run? Running such energy using equipment during peak demand times such as 2 pm to 6 pm costs more money than running the same equipment off-peak times such as at night or early morning.

Lighting makes up about 12% of your electricity bill in your home and 17-20% of your electric bill in your commercial building; therefore, the savings can be really great.

Again, lighting controls allow you to trim down or turn off your lighting during those peak demand times and save you even more money.

Below is a breakdown of electric usage in commercial buildings. You can see that by tackling lighting usage, you can really trim down your electric bill.

 

EIA chart breakdown of electricity use in commercial buildings by major end uses

View the entire U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2012 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey, Consumption and Expenditures, Table E5, May 2016 data set.

Keep scrolling to view Colorado utility service areas and rebate programs.

Colorado utility service areas & rebate programs

In the map below of Colorado Electric Utilities Service Territories, Xcel Energy coverage is in the dark blue and covers most of Denver.

 

map of colorado electric utilities service territories

 

Check with your local utility to find out what energy efficiency programs they offer or use this helpful link from BriteSwitch to see if you qualify—or give us a call!

Next, I’ll share some examples of great lighting rebate programs available from these utilities in our state with you.

 

Xcel’s lighting rebate program

Here is Xcel’s Lighting Rebate Program for your review.

One rebate example is replacing existing fluorescent 2×4 fixtures with a DLC-rated LED 2×4 fixtures, the rebate is $30 per fixture.  The wattage goes from 84 watts down to 45 watts or lower. If you add networked controls, it is a .40 per watt controlled rebate, so that is another $18 per fixture for integrated controls added on to the $30 for the fixture rebate x’s the number of fixtures!  That’s a $48 per fixture rebate! 

And remember, Xcel is offering a 25% bonus on select lighting equipment invoiced between April 15 – November 15 and installed and submitted to Xcel Energy by December 1, 2022. Visit XcelEnergy.com/LightingEfficiency for details.


Platte River Power Authority (Efficiency Works) lighting rebate program

Click to download an Excel document of the Platte River Power Authority (Efficiency Works) Lighting Rebate Program for your review.

One example is replacing existing fluorescent 2×4 fixtures to a DLC rated LED 2×4 fixtures, the rebate is $40 per fixture.  The wattage goes from 84 watts down to 45 watts or lower. If you add networked controls, it’s another $5 for the rebate, so it’s $45 per fixture rebate.

Here’s what PRPA has to say about their programs:

General program info for Platte River (Efficiency Works) programs

Efficiency Works unites the energy and water efficiency offerings of:

  • Estes Park Power and Communications
  • Fort Collins Utilities
  • Longmont Power & Communications
  • Loveland Water and Power
  • Platte River Power Authority

Efficiency Works helps your business identify and implement cost-effective energy efficiency upgrades for new or existing buildings. In the last five years, the Efficiency Works Business program has helped customers save $9.7 million dollars in operating costs, 114,990 MWh, and paid $30.6 million in rebates to 4,685 businesses.

Next, I’ll highlight the state of the union on lighting rebates, how long they have been around, how long they will be around, the percentage of office/whs/hospital that is converted to LED, and even grow facilities.

Lighting rebates have been available through the Efficiency Works Business program since it began in 2014, and prior to that, lighting rebates were available through previous program iterations beginning in 2007. Lighting rebates currently make up a significant portion of our energy efficiency savings, and we plan to continue to offer rebates for upgrading to more efficient lighting in the future.

What is the territory of the Platte River (Efficiency Works) coverage in Colorado?

Any commercial electric customer of Estes Park Power and Communications, Fort Collins Utilities, Longmont Power & Communications, or Loveland Water and Power is eligible to participate in our efficiency programs. The Efficiency Works Business program also administers commercial water rebates to Fort Collins Utilities, the City of Longmont, and Loveland Water and Power water customers.

What do the new construction rebates look like?

New construction lighting rebates are currently only available for interior fixtures and the incentive is $0.10 per annual kWh saved. The lighting design must beat code by at least 10% and all LED fixtures must be DLC or ENERGY STAR® listed. A COMCheck and lighting schedule are required as a part of the application and ASHRAE Lighting Power Density will be used to calculate the allowed wattage.

Do the rebates still come from the rate payer for both business and residential?

The Efficiency Works Homes and Business programs are funded by Platte River and each of our four owner communities via wholesale and retail electricity rates.


So, in summary, help make your coworkers happier, more fun, and look better under better lighting and give us a call.  We will leave the lights off for you.

Drop me an email or reach out to your favorite member of the TLA Outside Sales Team for more information on how we can help you maximize your savings on your next commercial lighting and controls project.

Until next time,
— Jason M. Solis

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