The mail-in rebate seems like an idea hatched by Bernie Madhoff. While in the big box home improvement store, you are on a mission to get what you need as quickly as possible and get out of there. On the race through the store you may throw in a pair gloves because, hey, they are only $1 a pair after mail in rebate. When you get home you notice you missed two crucial things on your list but you have a bunch of “almost free” stuff. But there is a problem: hassle. Do you even know how to lick an envelope seal anymore? What’s a stamp cost nowadays? Enclose the receipt? What if you have to take something back?
I don’t know how many times I have been onsite with a customer and they mention projects that they completed but they didn’t pursue utility incentives for them. Often their excuse is “It’s not worth my time.” What program characteristics lead to this perception?
Too Many Cooks
One retrocommissioning (RCx) program that we recently evaluated suffered from “too many cooks in the kitchen.” For this program, the customer contacts their account manager to apply for acceptance into the program. The program implementer then interviews the customer regarding their facility operation and needs. If that goes well, the customer can then be accepted into the program and select an RCx contractor to complete the study. Once the study is complete, the customer contacts the utility again to try to get their incentive. At this point, the customer has described their facility to three different parties and has long since lost interest in trying for an incentive on any of the measures. They just want off the merry-go-round.
Timeline issues fall into one of two categories: excessive or unrealistic requirements. One customer that we recently met with had a large project that was going to save a lot of electricity. However, the equipment was specialized, and had a lead time longer than one year. A completed pre-approval expired after one year. When the customer completed the project and tried to get their incentive, it was denied. Hit the deck! No active pre-approval meant no incentive. This was a program black eye.
Another RCx program that we found required that all measures must be approved prior to any repairs being completed. Under most circumstances this is a good idea. However, for this specific customer and project, they would fix problems as they were identified in the study. Why wait? Time is money. Because they fixed the projects “too fast,” they were not eligible for incentive. They still perform RCx on all of their buildings, but no longer with the utility’s help.
Barriers to implementing energy efficiency include lack of time, lack of capital, lack of expertise, and risk aversion. Unfortunately, the program meant to lower these barriers IS the barrier.