Five secret weapons to help seal smart grid deals

By Jesse Berst

The push for a greener, cleaner energy future has spawned an array of rebates, tax credits, and incentive programs from federal and state governments as well as electric utilities. Taking advantage of these programs can drive down the cost of energy upgrades. So no matter which piece of the smart grid you’ve set your sights on—renewables, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, or smart homes and buildings—staying current on these programs can give you a better ROI story to share with your partners and customers.

Here’s some ammunition to get you started.

1. Energy-efficiency tax deductions for commercial buildings. A tax deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot is available to owners or tenants (or, in the case of government-owned buildings, designers) of new or existing commercial buildings that are constructed or reconstructed to save at least 50% of the heating, cooling, ventilation, water heating, and interior lighting energy cost of a building that meets ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2001. Note: These deductions are available for systems or buildings placed into service between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2013. Learn more at www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/tax_commercial.html .

2. Tax credits for businesses with on-site renewable energy systems. Commercial, industrial, utilities, and agricultural entities are eligible for corporate tax credits for qualified solar water heat, solar space heat, solar thermal electric, solar thermal process heat, photovoltaics, wind, biomass, geothermal electric, fuel cells, geothermal heat pumps, CHP/cogeneration, solar hybrid lighting, micro turbines, and geothermal direct-use. Note: The credits are available for systems placed in service between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2016. Learn more at dsireusa.org .

3. Renewable energy tax credits for homeowners. Homeowners can receive a tax credit of 30% of the cost of the following renewable energy technologies with no upper limit: geothermal heat pumps, photovoltaic systems, solar water heaters, and small wind energy systems. Fuel cells are also eligible for a tax credit with a cap. Note: These renewable energy technologies must be placed in service by Dec. 31, 2016. Learn more at energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index .

4. State energy incentive programs. All 50 states have energy offices that are part of state government. Many offer incentive programs for energy efficiency, renewables, and the like. Find detailed information for each state’s energy program in the state toolkit section of the NAED smart grid website (naed.org/smartgrid ).

5. Utility incentive programs. Electric utilities large and small around the country offer a variety of incentive programs, making it worthwhile to check with utilities in your territory.

Here are a few examples of the types of programs being offered:

  • Kansas City Power and Light offers solar rebates to Missouri customers. It amounts to $2 per watt, up to 25kW, for qualified photovoltaic solar systems on homes or businesses.
  • Otter Tail Power Company in Minnesota offers its commercial and industrial customers grants for conservation. The program lets the businesses submit their own energy-saving proposals based on the unique needs of their operations. 
  • Sacramento (Calif.) Municipal Utility District offers a wide variety of incentives and financing options to encourage investment in energy efficiency, covering everything from lighting to servers and data centers to heating and cooling. As an example, customers can save up to 30% of project costs or $150,000 with the utility’s customized incentive for efficient motors.
  • Seattle City Light helps medium and large businesses with incentives as high as 70% of the cost of installing a variety of products including light controllers. Examples: up to $90 for occupancy detectors and up to $.20 per kWh saved using daylighting controls. 

Armed with this kind of information, the advantage is yours.

Jesse Berst is the managing director of Global Smart Energy and founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News (smartgridnews.com ). He consults to smart grid companies seeking strategic and M&A advisory. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the United States and abroad, he serves on the Advisory Council of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Energy & Environment Directorate. Reach him at jesse.berst@globalsmartenergy.com .

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