Utilities and You: Incentives and Rebates

January 3, 2022 | By: Owen Kavanagh

From the western coasts of the Pacific to the eastern shores of the Atlantic, and everywhere in between, utility companies manage the energy, water, and gas used by the commercial real estate industry. Utility companies across the United States of America offer numerous ways to save at the meter, through custom rebates, special programs, and more.

Incentives and Rebates

Many gas, energy, and water utility companies offer rebates and savings to encourage sustainable options for building owners and managers. These programs can generally be broken into two main categories – prescriptive rebates, and custom rebates.

Prescriptive rebates are more generic and apply to qualified utility customers. These programs generally base rebates and savings on the usage of high-efficiency equipment like LED lighting, variable frequency drives, HVAC systems, and others. Prescriptive programs are simple to enter, and equipment can be pre-approved for a rebate prior to it being installed depending on the program and company.

Custom rebates are specific to each building. If new construction or facility improvement does not fit into the prescriptive rebates or any other utility rebate program, a custom rebate can be designed based around the energy-savings your new construction or facility upgrade would bring. Depending on the utility company, a custom rebate may be completely separate from prescriptive or other rebates, so buildings may apply for multiple types of rebates and receive all of them. In the case of the utility company Georgia Power, custom rebates can apply for up to $75,000 per building per year up to 50 percent of the project cost.

Prescriptive and custom rebates are important programs for assisting building upgrades and new construction, here are a few examples of rebate programs from around the country.

NorthWestern Energy

NorthWestern Energy is an energy and gas utility company primarily servicing most of Montana, eastern South Dakota, and Yellowstone National Park. They also provide gas to portions of Nebraska. With 743,000 customers, NorthWestern Energy serves a wide swath of the northwestern United States. NorthWestern Energy provides multiple savings and rebates programs for buildings to take advantage of.

One of these programs is the E+ Commercial Electric Lighting Rebate Program. These rebates are offered to NorthWestern Energy customers in Montana, and require the submission of a completed rebate application. The E+ Commercial Electric Lighting Rebate Program helps to encourage sustainable lighting by directly giving money back following a retrofit. These rebates range from $2.00 all the way to $200 depending on the fixture, lamp, or tube upgraded.

These upgrades must be ENERGY STAR® or Design Light Consortium (DLC) qualified to apply, but upgrading your building’s lighting will already save energy and money. Current rebate prices are valid through June 30, 2022. Work completed prior to August 1, 2021, may not be accepted. The incentives available under this program will be paid 4 – 6 weeks after the project is completed, verified, and your rebate application has been processed.

Southern California Edison

Southern California Edison (SCE) is an energy, water, and gas utility servicing over 15 million people in central, coastal, and southern California. SCE is the largest subsidiary of Edison International and SCE was incorporated in 1909. SCE offers numerous rebates and savings for commercial buildings under their Customized Solutions program.

The Customized Solution program covers a wide range of products and sustainable solutions (explained fully in SCE’s Solutions Directory). These programs give rebates to qualified SCE customers for high-efficiency lighting, refrigeration, pumping, building envelope, HVAC, and much more.

In their HVAC rebates, SCE offers up to $0.12 per kWh saved with energy efficient fan blade retrofits, data center economizer add-ons, HVAC zone controls, and HVAC chilled water pump system upgrades, to name a few. These rebates cover 50 to 100 percent of project costs and are given per item. There are many custom and prescriptive rebates, and these savings add up quicky. SCE rebates are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis and pull resources from an annual budget. Securing your sustainable solutions early in the fiscal year will ensure your building receives the rebates you apply for. 

Georgia Power

Georgia Power is an electric utility company that began operations in 1902. It is the largest subsidiary of the Southern Company, and services over 2.6 million customers, 328,000 of which are commercial or industrial customers. Georgia Power offers many custom and prescriptive rebates for lighting retrofits, high-efficiency equipment installation, new construction, and much more.

The Make Ready program is centered around installing Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations throughout Georgia at a significantly reduced cost. This program covers EV charging infrastructure for passenger vehicles, transit buses, various delivery trucks, airport ground support equipment, and forklifts. Through the Make Ready program, Georgia Power supplies the conduit, wiring, and associated infrastructure for both the utility and customer side of an EV charger.

This program does not cover the cost of the charger itself, but the installation of EV charging infrastructure and its associated costs are normally higher than the cost of an EV charger. Old construction benefits greatly from this, as installing infrastructure for EV can be prohibitively expensive for commercial properties.

Utilities and You

Local utilities offer multiple saving and rebate programs, many of which are underutilized by the communities these utilities service. The first step to applying for a rebate is identifying how you can save, and utility staff can help with this. Utility companies have engineers on staff to assist in identifying possible energy savings and provide rebates on sustainability projects. Once possible savings are identified, a building must utilize them.

“The savings are out there, customers simply need to take advantage of them,” states Tom Brooks, program manager with Georgia Power. “The rebate process is straightforward and easy, and Georgia Power staff and engineers are available to help calculate custom rebates and assist you through the process.”

Fostering a relationship with your utilities provider can bring immense benefits to property managers, building owners, and other CRE stakeholders. Utilities offer custom energy rates, prescriptive and custom rebates, and sustainability programs to assist in enhancing a building’s value. The savings are out there, they simply need to be pursued.


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