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Local companies save money, energy with newLIGHT program

BRATTLEBORO—Local businesses are cutting their electricity bills, thanks to Efficiency Vermont’s newLIGHT program.The program helps businesses of all sizes with either fluorescent tube, T12, or HID High-Bay lighting fixtures. It helps them access rebates to replace up to 200 fixtures by working with local contractors or distributors.According to an Efficiency Vermont press release, T12 fluorescent lamps are common in many businesses throughout Vermont. They are usually four- to eight-foot-long tubes mounted horizontally in a ceiling fixture and are always 1.5 inches in diameter.Since the program began in March 2010, contractors and distributors have completed more than 250 projects, said Dan Mellinger, lighting planning and development manager with Efficiency Vermont, a subsidiary of Vermont Economic Investment Corporation.Mellinger oversees commercial lighting programs with Efficiency Vermont. He said the newLIGHT program is great for small businesses that may only have 200 fixtures.“It enables them to make this upgrade they couldn’t otherwise,” said Mellinger.The business pays the difference between the net cost of the lights and the rebate. That can cover as much as 50 percent or more of the equipment costs, Mellinger said.Efficiency Vermont estimates businesses can save 25 to 50 percent on their lighting energy bills. Also, these businesses will avoid needing to upgrade when the federal government phases out the older T12 lamps in 2012.To qualify for the program, companies must work with a contractor or distributor who sees the project through from the audit of existing lighting, to installation.The companies must also have the older florescent T12 or HID High-Bay lights to be considered.Efficiency Vermont confirms the rebate amount based on the audit forms submitted by the contractors.Efficiency Vermont offers contractors and distributors a dollar amount for each completed project, plus a tiered set of rewards: $200 for each completed project, $500 for the fifth completed project, $2,500 for the 15th and $5,000 for the 25th.The rewards encourage “market transformation” by helping contractors and distributors to find, vet, and sell energy efficiency projects they wouldn’t have gone after before participating in newLIGHT, said Mellinger.“Wow, that’s pretty good,” said part-time Librarian Karen LaRue when she saw the Townshend Free Public Library’s post-newLIGHT energy bill.Although she is still tracking the energy savings, LaRue said the electricity bills have been “noticeably” lower.LaRue said local contractor Warren Beattie, from Townshend-based W.E. Beattie Electric and Telecom, approached her last summer about swapping out the 44 of the library’s old fixtures.“He made [the project] much easier,” said LaRue.Beattie took the project off LaRue’s hands, she said. He did the audit, chose the replacement lights, and scheduled the work around the library’s schedule.“The library couldn’t afford to upgrade without incentives from Efficiency Vermont,” said LaRue. “It was a financial burden to continually replace old, burnt-out bulbs that never last very long. Now, the lighting quality is much better for reading, and I have greater peace-of-mind knowing I don’t have to keep replacing inefficient lamps.”Mellinger said he has received feedback from contractors and distributors that the NewLIGHT program has meant keeping their businesses out of the red and keeping people employed in a slushy economy.It’s a nice side benefit, said Mellinger.The project structure has roots in the “If you teach a person to fish...” school of thought, he said.“We’re hopefully training an army to go out and find the efficiencies,” said Mellinger.He said the project’s contractors and distributors often work on pay dividends on multiple future projects, and that most companies reap a 50 percent savings in energy costs from swapping out the old T12 tubes.Other benefits include improved lighting quality and the ability to control the lights through sensors. In some cases, it lowers air conditioning costs because the efficient bulbs throw less heat.“In the world of energy efficiency, changing light bulbs is the most glamorous thing you can do,” said Mellinger.That’s because, he said, people see improved lighting quality immediately. unlike a larger efficiency project such as installing a better heating or cooling system.He recommends people do energy efficiency projects like lighting or insulation before taking on bigger projects, such as installing solar panels.Also, he said that increased home or business efficiency can reduce the size and cost of a renewable energy project.The project is funded through Vermont electric utility ratepayers. No federal funds are involved.Businesses should submit and complete their projects by Dec. 31, 2011 to receive the maximum rebate.The newLIGHT project will end Dec 1, 2011, because when the federal ban switches on for T12 florescent lights, Efficiency Vermont won’t be able to claim energy savings on the defunct lights.For businesses and organizations with halogen track or spot lighting, enhanced rebates of up to $60 per lamp are available for upgrading to energy-efficient screw-based LED lamps. By installing LED lamps for product display, businesses can save up to 80 percent on annual energy costs — up to $22 per lamp installed — while maintaining the same high-quality light needed. This limited-time offer also ends on Dec. 31.To learn more about the newLIGHT and LED rebates, contact your local lighting professional, visit Efficiency Vermont online at www.efficiencyvermont.com, or call customer support at 888-921-5990.   

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Originally published in The Commons issue #87 (Wednesday, February 9, 2011).

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