Concerns about the efficiency and reliability of electricity are prompting new responses by federal and state government agencies, utilities, associations and product manufacturers. They could provide new business for electrical contractors if you can position your company for these opportunities. Unfortunately, electrical contractors are not targeted for information they need about these programs and products for adequate planning and participation.

However, the information is there if you look, because 46 states plus the Federal government have funded efficiency and reliability programs you could tap into. To begin at the top, the Department of Energy (DOE) runs the High-Performance Building Program to help develop momentum for design and construction of better buildings. You can find a program description at www.eere.energy.gov/buildings/highperformance/.

“DOE supports the design of commercial buildings that are energy efficient, healthy, and comfortable places to learn, work, and play,” the site says. DOE provides design guidance free of charge for selected projects in return for access to operational records for three years. Such buildings are granted certification for leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Buildings Council (www.usgbc.org). LEED workshops are conducted nationwide.

Electrical contractors who participate, such as Rosendin Electric Inc. of San Jose, Calif., may enjoy valuable preference with owners and designers. Here is one example: Located on the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md., the Louis Stokes Laboratories are used for structural and cell biology research. This building, which replaced three outdated facilities, provides space for 650 scientists from nine NIH institutes. Each of the six laboratory floors (built on a budget for five) is organized into six lab modules grouped around a central core. Above each floor is a modified, interstitial mechanical floor housing all utilities. This arrangement improves both construction and maintenance productivity, and makes the building flexible enough to accommodate change. The key technologies used to conserve and recover energy are: photo-cell controlled daylighting, variable-air-volume (VAV) ventilation air supply and exhaust, desiccant energy-recovery “heat wheels” in the building’s supply and general exhaust system, and automated controls for the mechanical HVAC building systems. The electrical contractor was Young Electrical Contractors Inc. (www.youngelectric.com), a member of NECA’s Washington, D.C. chapter .

Another good example is the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program of California. This agency “supports public interest energy research and development that will help improve the quality of life in California by bringing environmentally safe, affordable and reliable energy services and products to the marketplace.” The PIER Program annually awards up to $62 million for the most promising energy efficiency potential by partnering with organizations, individuals, businesses, utilities and public or private research institutions. You can read all about it at http://www.energy.ca.gov/pier/.

PIER projects are too numerous to describe, but three lighting efficiency products illustrate potential new partnerships between manufacturers and electrical contractors. One is a combined wall switch and motion sensing LED night light by Watt Stopper, Inc. (www.wattstopper.com). It was tested for retrofit of hotel bathrooms plus other residence facilities where occupants might otherwise leave lights on throughout the night or after leaving the room. In the test installation with Marriott and Doubletree hotels, the units achieved a payback of 2.5 years.

Another PIER lighting project documented the efficacy of an Occu-Smart lighting fixture with motion control in emergency stairway applications for high rise buildings. Demonstrations in New York provided increased illuminances with up to 53 percent energy savings, according to supplier LaMar Lighting Co. (www.occusmart.com).

A third PIER efficiency project involves testing a new high-quality direct/indirect luminaire by Finelite for classrooms. It features a control center that enables the teacher to control the lighting from the front of the classroom in up-mode, down-mode, or dimming mode. The supplier claims that the product design “reduces the amount of labor and materials required to install not only the fixtures, but the base building wiring required to support those fixtures.” Visit www.finelite.com for details.

The bottom line is that there may be a new opportunity developing in both new construction and retrofit for electrical contractors who do a little research about products for efficiency and reliability of electric usage. Ron Lindberg of Rapid Electric in Escanaba, Mich. (www.gorapidelectric.com) proves the results could be well worth the effort. He reported, “Anybody can be a low bidder, but we have found that partnering with the state energy agency, suppliers, and other trade contractors gives us the ability to provide totally integrated utility conservation services, and it pays off for both us and our customers.” You can begin searching for similar opportunities in your area by accessing your state energy office at http://www.naseo.org/. EC

TAGLIAFERRE is proprietor of C-E-C Group. He may be reached at 703.321.9268 or lewtag@aol.com.