Cash For Watts

About $2 billion was budgeted for industrial/commercial energy efficiency programs such as utility rebates in 2010, according to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE). This year, prescriptive rebates are available covering a broad range of energy-efficient lighting solutions in more than 70 percent of the United States, according to BriteSwitch LLC, a company that specializes in energy rebate fulfillment.

The prescriptive product rebate remains the most popular of its kind. It is a cash rebate promoting specific qualifying lighting upgrade options. The amount of the incentive varies widely, with the average rebate improving payback by up to 20–25 percent, making these technologies more attractive for owner investment by reducing initial cost.

Other types of incentives may include a rebate for reducing energy consumption (kilowatt-hours) or load (kilowatts) or provide favorable rates or other incentives for emergency demand response. In the latter type of program, large customers agree to reduce load during times of the year when peak-power demand exceeds a supply threshold. This may be as simple as the utility contacting the customer with the request or installing monitoring and control devices that automatically reduce load when needed.

T12 to T8 rebates fading fast

After Department of Energy (DOE) product regulations went into effect in 2012 targeting linear T12 lamps, many utilities stopped rebating T8 conversions.

“A lot of people upgraded their T12 fixtures before the money was gone,” said Leendert Jan Enthoven, president of BriteSwitch. “There are still rebates out there for T8 solutions, but to take advantage of it, customers will often have to use more premium T8 products, such as reduced-wattage T8 lamps.”

LED rebates coming on strong

In the last year, BriteSwitch saw a greater-than-50-percent increase in the number of light-emitting diode (LED) rebate programs, with programs adding prescriptive rebates for LED categories such as downlights, high-bays, accent lights and integral replacement lamps. In some programs, utilities are even giving the technology preference over other upgrade options.

“A trend that has continued with LED lighting is that, while the number of available programs has increased, the average rebate per fixture has decreased,” Enthoven said. 

For example, the average rebate for integral LED replacement lamps decreased by 23 percent between 2011 and 2012 and by another 8 percent between 2012 and 2013. 

“The decrease in the average rebate amount is mostly to come in line with the reduced prices customers are seeing in LED solutions,” Enthoven said.

Lighting controls

Controls are now common in rebate programs, with the number of rebate programs almost tripling since 2009.

“The biggest shift is that many rebate programs are starting to rewrite their program guidelines to allow wireless sensor technology,” Enthoven said. “Previously, many programs excluded wireless sensors; but, as the technology has advanced and many reputable control manufacturers introduced quality products, the programs have started to adapt.”

Finding the way

Rebate programs may require selected products to satisfy performance criteria established by independent organizations. For T8 lighting, the CEE’s list of reduced-wattage and high-performance lamps and ballasts is the most common requirement. For LED products, many programs require Energy Star, Design Lights Consortium or Lighting Design Lab listing, Enthoven said.

“Investigate the programs’ detailed requirements to ensure the solution they’re offering to the customer is eligible for rebates,” he said. “Many programs have fine print outlining attributes that are required to get funds.”

Preapproval is often required before equipment is purchased, a process that can take up to a month. Enthoven added it can take up to 120 days or longer for the rebate check to be delivered. Because strong participation is draining program funds earlier in the year in some regions, check with the utility that funding will be sufficient to ensure promised rebates will be delivered.

For more information about local programs, visit, a website maintained by the DOE.

About the Author

Craig DiLouie

Lighting Columnist
Craig DiLouie, L.C., is a journalist and educator specializing in the lighting industry. Learn more at and .​

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