Despite the fact that United Illuminating will likely not need additional generating capacity for at least ten years, the utility has been aggressively pursuing demand-side management as an economic development imperative, using energy efficiency as a means of retaining customers and providing them with a competitive advantage despite quite high rates for electricity. To this end Energy Opportunities is a multi-faceted program designed to help UI’s commercial and industrial customers identify and implement energy efficiency measures in existing facilities. Energy Opportunities is a companion program to Energy Blueprint, UI’s incentive program for commercial and industrial new construction. (See The Results Center Profile #50.)
Energy Opportunities was first implemented in 1990 and has five distinct components: free audits, free energy pricing reviews, co-funding for advanced energy engineering, cash incentives for installing qualifying measures, and turn-key installation services whereby UI provides all services necessary to implement conservation and load management measures. The first two components build awareness of the potentials for energy efficiency. Advanced energy engineering builds upon the audit component and cash incentives functionally buy-down customers’ payback periods for measures installed. Turn-key services provide the means for customers that can’t allocate time and resources to planning and implementing retrofits to do so with minimum involvement. In addition, UI has unveiled a Small Business component for the program to focus specifically on retrofitting small businesses with peak demands of less than 50 kW.
One of the unique features of the Energy Opportunities program is that different rebate levels are used based on a number of factors. For instance, measures with longer payback periods bear higher incentive levels. Small business customers are currently eligible for maximum incentives of 70% of the project cost, plus interest free financing for up to nine months, while this threshold is lower for state facilities at 50% of total costs. Finally, manufacturing customers are entitled to higher rebate schedules than commercial customers. Another feature of the program is that UI retains the right to perform post installation inspections and to require participants to guarantee that measures installed will provide savings for a minimum of ten years. Although rarely done, the utility can require participants to enter into service contracts with approved vendors to assure savings over a ten year lifetime.
To date, Energy Opportunities has significantly exceeded its energy and capacity savings goals in each year that it has been run. In 1992 it reached 151% of its energy goal and 178% of its capacity goal. The program is expected to continue in its present form and to provide 22% of UI’s peak reductions in the year 2000 and to provide 49% of all conservation and load management energy reductions in 2000.
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