Energy Efficiency

LES funds $1.75 mil in incentives for efficiency upgrades

Lincoln Electric System (LES) in Nebraska is continuing its Sustainable Energy Program with $1.75 million in incentive funds for customers that want to switch to more energy efficient equipment.

LES says that since it began its Sustainable Energy Program (SEP) in 2009, customers have accessed $22.5 million in incentives and spent $126.6 million on energy-efficient equipment and/or services. The incentive level for the SEP program in 2019 was $1.5 million.

“It is the eleventh year of the program,” and the utility’s board is “solidly behind it,” and there is no sign of that waning, Marc Shkolnick, LES’ manager of energy services, said. “They see it as a fitting role for a public power provider.”

LES’ 2020 SEP program includes incentives ranging from $200 to $1,500 for high efficiency heat pumps and air conditioners and incentives as high as $1,000 for insulation upgrades.

Commercial and industrial customers could receive as much as $100,000 in incentives per year for achieving peak-demand savings through air conditioner/heat pump replacement, variable frequency drive upgrades, compressed air systems analysis and upgrade, energy management systems installation, optimization or upgrade, and systems commissioning. The SEP program also includes incentives to replace existing fluorescent or metal halide commercial lighting with LEDs.

And, in 2019, LES began offering incentives of up to $500 for residential customers to switch from conventional tank storage to heat pump water heaters.

LES adjusts its incentive levels as it goes through its annual budget process to reflect changing conditions such as lower costs for equipment and to reflect the utility’s energy and production costs which have fluctuated significantly since the program’s inception in 2009. “We work to be sure the program is as cost effective as possible,” Shkolnick said.

A key component of the program is the role of the utility’s trade allies, the contractors and retailers who provide customers with equipment and services. “They are the primary conduit between the customer and program,” Shkolnick said.

For instance, the contractor is in the best position to interact with customers when an air conditioner or some other equipment fails and needs to be replaced. “Timing is everything when it comes to ACs,” Shkolnick said. “It is a decision that many people put off.”

Three to four thousand air conditioners or heat pumps are replaced in our service territory every year and about one of every three takes advantage of the incentives, Shkolnick said.

In addition, the contractor does the “heavy lifting” in terms of paperwork. “The customer just signs off, so he or she is not burdened to fill out paperwork,” Shkolnick said. “We try to make the process for the trade ally as streamlined as possible. We don’t want to over burden them either.”

The vast majority of LES’ trade allies are multi-year participants in the SEP program, he added.