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Gary Moore, plant manager for Springfield Workshop Inc., says $16,000 in lighting upgrades enabled the company to receive $7,300 in rebates from City Utilities and already have paid for themselves through energy savings.
Gary Moore, plant manager for Springfield Workshop Inc., says $16,000 in lighting upgrades enabled the company to receive $7,300 in rebates from City Utilities and already have paid for themselves through energy savings.

Rebates help companies trim energy use, expenses

Posted online
In an economic climate when every penny can make a difference to businesses, the energy-saving incentive programs offered by local utility companies can bring cost savings that add up fast.

For its commercial customers, City Utilities of Springfield offers several rebate programs, including those for refrigerator and freezer recycling, programmable thermostats and high efficiency toilets, according to www.cityutilities.net.

CU also can help businesses with energy and lighting audits, all with the goal of helping companies conserve energy and cut their utility bills.

Springfield Workshop Inc., a nonprofit entity that employs people with disabilities, is among local commercial users that have benefited from CU’s rebate programs.

In 2009, the workshop was looking for ways to save money and replace its T12 fluorescent bulbs, which must be phased out by 2012 under federal energy conservation laws.

An audit by CU estimated that Springfield Workshop could save as much as $6,400 a year on its utility bills by converting more than 300 fluorescent lighting fixtures in its production area and warehouse to T8 bulbs.

“We learned we could have cost savings with new lighting and get a rebate,” said Gary Moore, plant manager.

The workshop opted to retrofit its existing fixtures, replacing old bulbs at a total cost of $16,000, with labor performed in-house. Retrofitting and replacement was completed in two phases. To take advantage of CU’s lighting rebate program, which is available Oct. 1–Sept. 30, the company had to complete each phase in 90 days and show that the old bulbs and fixture parts that were replaced had been recycled.

After completing the first phase during CU’s 2009 fiscal year and the second in fiscal 2010, the workshop received a total rebate of $7,300.

“We are actually seeing about a 10 percent reduction in utility bills, and the project has already paid for itself,” Moore said. “An additional bonus is that the T8 bulbs put off a much brighter light and it’s made a huge difference in our production area.”

Two-sided savings
Rebate programs help utility companies curb power usage and reduce the need for additional energy generation, said Sherry McCormack, energy efficiency coordinator for Joplin-based Empire District Electric Co.

“That means we need less fuel to operate the plants. Businesses save money on their bills,” she said. “There is a long-term benefit to the customer and to our company.”

Empire District Electric’s commercial and industrial rebate programs include lighting, high-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems, and small motor installations, McCormack said. The company also has an interruptible curtailment program for its large commercial users, allowing them to save money by entering contracts with Empire to curb their power usage on high-demand days. The utility pays participating companies based on kilowatt usage reduction on those days.

First Baptist Church in Ozark is retrofitting 445 fluorescent light fixtures and replacing 1,780 bulbs in its 19-year old building at 1400 W. Jackson St. to take advantage of Empire’s lighting rebate program.

Empire calculates its rebates with a formula that takes into account the incremental cost of the change to the commercial user, the length of time it will take for the user to see a return on investment and the cost savings to the utility.

The church is set to receive a $7,660 rebate if it completes the project within six months.

“The utility is paying for two-thirds of our cost, which is very helpful,” said Don Currence, minister of administration.

A run on rebates
Cara Shaefer, director of energy management and conservation at City Utilities, said CU’s rebates are funded through a rate increase that took effect in 2006. The budget for the commercial lighting program this year is $60,000, and 37 businesses have applied, but funds for fiscal 2011 were maxed out in February.  

CU’s total annual budget for all rebate programs – several also are available to residential users – is $1 million, Schaefer said, noting that if funding has dried up for specific programs, customers will have to wait until the new fiscal year.

Empire’s rebates budget for its current fiscal year, which runs through April 30, is $260,000, McCormack said, noting that it’s not too late for commercial users to take advantage of the programs, which are outlined at www.empiredistrict.com.

“We still have money available this fiscal year for rebates,” she said.[[In-content Ad]]

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