Schools can save thousands of dollars each year through energy-efficiency projects, and states and utility companies offer rebates on most of these projects. Whether installing new light bulbs or upgrading and old HVAC system, almost every school that completes an energy-efficiency project is eligible for some rebate or subsidy from their state government or electric company.
Types of Projects
Governments and utilities generally consider two types of energy-efficiency projects:
- Retrofits/Retro-commissions – In these projects, rebates cover a portion of the costs for replacing inefficient equipment or refurbishing old equipment to reduce energy usage.
- New Construction – In these projects, rebates cover some of the price difference between cheap but inefficient equipment and expensive but efficient equipment.
Types of Rebates
In some states, such as New Jersey and New York, the government offers money for energy efficiency projects; in other states, utility companies fund rebates through surcharges on utility bills. Generally, state-administered and state-mandated rebates are more generous, but utility company rebates are more widespread—practically every utility company in the country provides rebates for energy-efficient light bulbs, for example.
Applying for a Rebate
Generally, schools must have their projects approved by their state or utility company before they complete the project in order to receive the rebate.
The simplest way to take advantage of state or utility company rebates is to hire a contractor familiar with the application process to complete the project. Schools can usually obtain a list of experienced contractors by contacting their state government or utility company via phone, email, or their website.
“Small Business” Programs
Some states and utility companies provide special rebates to non-residential customers with relatively small energy demands. These so-called “small business” programs (don’t let the name fool you—schools are eligible, too) generally provide very large rebates (sometimes 80% of the project costs) and require minimal paperwork on the school’s behalf.
Generally, a school must simply certify that it has a low energy demand (the definition varies by location) and apply to the small business program. From that point on, the program covers the tasks of finding a contractor, conducting an energy audit, identifying energy-saving opportunities, and completing the project. Eligible schools must simply foot their generally small portion of the bill.