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Lighting Control Rebates Triple Since 2009

Utility and regional energy efficiency organization rebates and incentives have been a major driver in demand for energy-efficient lighting and controls since the early 1990s. Today, more than $6 billion in commercial lighting rebates and other incentives are offered by utilities and energy efficiency organizations covering some 80% of the United States.

Currently, rebates and incentives are surging. In 2011, energy efficiency incentive programs totaled $6.8 billion, a 26% increase over 2010 ($5.4 billion), and a 55% increase over 2009 ($4.4 billion), according to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency. Utilities and energy efficiency organizations offer these incentives as a least-cost resource planning strategy based on the understanding that it is more cost-effective to reward customers for reducing demand than to expand supply with costly new power plants.

This animated graphic reveals the strong growth in rebate coverage in the United States since 2009:

Lighting has always played a strong role in utility rebates and incentives. More recently, lighting controls have begun to play a much larger part. In fact, the number of rebate programs available for lighting controls has almost tripled since 2009, covering occupancy and vacancy sensors, photosensors, daylight dimming systems and automatic time-based controls, says Leendert Jan Enthoven, president of BriteSwitch, LLC, a company that facilitates rebate claims for commercial end-users.

He adds that rebates and other incentives covering lighting controls are available in 47 out of the 50 states. The specific types of controls that qualify for rebates vary by program. The most popular control rebate is for occupancy sensors; out of all the control rebates and incentives available, 50% are for remote-mounted occupancy sensors, followed by wallbox occupancy sensors with 23% and fixture-mounted with 14%, according to BriteSwitch.

Average rebates for these and other control solutions is shown in the below table. The average rebate for a wall switch-mounted occupancy sensor is 2012, for example, is $23 in retrofits and $16 in new construction. Since 2009, the rebate amounts per lighting control have remained relatively constant. The rebates are typically either a set dollar amount per type of control, as shown, or per connected watt.

Table. Lighting control rebate and incentive programs in 2012. Source: BriteSwitch, LLC National Rebate and Incentive Database, March 2012.

Control Technology Average Rebate
Retrofit New Construction
Remote Mounted Occupancy Sensors $34 $26
Wall-box Occupancy Sensors $23 $16
Photocells $23 $21
Fixture Mounted Occupancy Sensors $20 $28
Daylight Dimming Systems $46 $41

“Overall, rebates for lighting controls are more flexible than rebates for lighting products that most people are familiar with,” says Enthoven. “While the programs will outline the general types of controls—wallbox sensor, fixture-mounted sensor, dimming system—they rarely state specifications or performance criteria required for a system. It is more important how you use the control. Programs may have a requirement on how many watts or fixtures are controlled by a certain control. They may also have restrictions on where these sensors can be used, and often do not provide rebates if installed in areas not recommended by local building codes and IES guidelines.”

He cautions any organization applying for rebates to carefully examine program requirements such as design specifics, pre-approval requirements, inspections, expiration dates, rebate minimums and so on.

“Rebates and incentives for controls are out there and available for a large variety of products and projects,” Enthoven concludes. “It is a missed opportunity not to utilize these programs. The incentives can cover a significant portion of the cost of the controls, and when part of a larger lighting retrofit, can amount to a significant reduction in cost.”

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