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Thursday, November 17,2011

Rebates power biz lighting upgrades

By Sara Wright

The money is on the table.

And unless Boulder County businesses act by year’s end, nearly a quarter million dollars in rebates aimed to upgrade commercial buildings and improve energy efficiency will vanish as revelers welcome in 2012.

Since January, $217,000 in EnergySmart rebates have helped 230 commercial properties sport new, high-efficiency lighting. Eighteen have upgraded heating, air conditioning and water heaters, and 16 boast improved refrigeration.

However, $233,000 of the $450,000 allotted for 2011 for business and commercial property owners remains available through Dec. 31.

The funding is part of $12 million awarded to Boulder County by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) through the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Program.

The grant runs through May 2013 and helps power the EnergySmart program, which targets both businesses and residences for energy-efficiency upgrades.

Until Dec. 31, Xcel Energy is sweetening the deal with a 50 percent bonus rebate for businesses that retrofit their heat-producing, halogen lights (T12s) to high-efficiency T8 fluorescent lighting and high-efficiency electronic ballasts.

“The biggest bang for the buck on the commercial side is to look at lighting and do a lighting upgrade,” says Mary Wiener, an energy efficiency and sustainability specialist who advises business and commercial property owners for EnergySmart. “In retail, 40 percent of your electric bill can be from lighting.”

The light bulbs are changing anyway. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will end production of the T12s in July. “When we found out about [EnergySmart rebates], we were blown away,” says Wade Arnold of The Colorado Group, a commercial real estate firm serving the Front Range. “I have three other partners, and we’re all looking at each other saying, ‘What’s the catch here?’ You think it’s too good to be true.”

Tenant Randy Patton of Wild Goose Engineering approached Arnold about improving the lighting in its space on 55th Street in Boulder.

“They weren’t happy with the quality of the light in their space, and they were looking to try and save energy costs,” Arnold said.

Arnold’s decision to upgrade the warehouse’s lighting cost him $13,654; he’ll recoup $11,399 in rebates.

“We’ve had a significant improvement in the working environment as a result of the energy upgrade,” says Patton, who directs business operations at Wild Goose Engineering. “We manufacture high-precision, detailed products, so the improvement in the lighting was significant. The fact that our landlord was willing to participate is another reason why we’re staying with Wade Arnold and The Colorado Group.”

Since January, nearly 1,000 commercial decision-makers have sought guidance from Wiener and her colleagues. EnergySmart’s advisers perform an energy audit or analyze one already performed by the utility. They collaborate to establish the clients’ goals and priorities, budget and available rebates. They connect them with pre-approved contractors, help them analyze bids and fill in any rebate paperwork. The advisers, in essence, help folks flip the switch with one-stop shopping.

Through the grant, EnergySmart aims to stimulate economic growth and investment in energy efficiency, while advancing Colorado’s energy independence through large-scale energy upgrades.

EnergySmart is sponsored in partnership with Boulder County, the cities of Boulder and Longmont, Xcel Energy and Platte River Power Authority. Partners offer rebates of their own.

“Some of the rebates can be up to $45 per fixture,” says Wiener. “So if the total project cost is $1,000, the rebates are going to cover $600. You’re out of pocket only $400. Then, we look at how many kilowatts you’re going to be saving, and we can determine how quickly that lighting project will pay for itself.”

Wiener says improved lighting saves 35 percent of energy use, on average. Plus, high-efficiency lighting provides truer colors and better quality light, lasts longer, and has been shown to increase productivity, she says. The T8s don’t hum, either.

“There is no catch,” Arnold said. “At some point you have to replace these lights. If it’s going to make our existing tenants happy and save some energy, why not do it sooner rather than later?” Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

[ Details, details ]

Contact an EnergySmart Advisor

(877)505-6722 or
Check out efficiency rebates
From Xcel: www.xcelenergy.com/rebates
From Platte River Power Authority:

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