Illuminating Energy Incentives & Cost Savings for Educational Facilities

The upkeep of colleges and universities can prove to be extremely costly due primarily to the amount of maintenance required to keep the facility infrastructure functioning properly.

Unavoidable upgrade projects are adding further strain to already tight budgets, leaving educational establishments in search of new ways to cut costs, increase energy efficiency and create a smooth transition to new technologies.

Prioritizing LED Technologies

The solution for many leading educational institutions is to prioritize LED technologies. Implementing LED upgrades not only enhances the educational environment but they also deliver tremendous returns on investment and long term savings benefits which no other maintenance project can provide. Technological advancements coupled with state energy incentive programs, particularly in the lighting sector, present a prime opportunity for facilities to develop and execute maintenance projects that are not only necessary, but have the potential to be profitable. Colleges and universities can receive rebates of up to 80% of project costs while realizing long term energy savings of up to 60%; however, these opportunities may soon disappear due to economic and regulatory changes, so it’s important to both identify and take advantage of incentives while still possible.

Identifying Incentives

Incentive programs vary greatly between states so identifying and securing applicable rebates for your facility can be extremely challenging if you’re unfamiliar with the process. As the process is often time consuming and complex, it is best to work with turn-key experts who have in-depth knowledge and previous experience working on similar projects. If you decide to take on the project yourself, there are two important considerations to keep in mind when securing incentives:

1. Don’t skip the pre-inspection: A necessary component to completing the rebate process is the project pre-inspection required by most, if not all power companies and rebate providers prior to the start of a project. Be prepared with a complete scope of work coupled with a thorough understanding of what technologies will be used, their exact specifications and where the products will be used throughout the facility to justify the energy savings. Schedule a facility walk through with the power company or rebate provider and after the pre-inspection, if approved, a rebate offer letter will be presented.

2. Diligence with post-inspection and follow up: Rebate providers, like many other companies, will not release money without proof that the work performed is complete and conforms to the agreed upon scope of work. After a project has been completed, it falls on the facility to schedule a post-inspection walk-through, provide the proper paperwork and any other required updates. After all material has been submitted, the responsibility remains with the facility to follow-up with the rebate provider and utility company to ensure everything needed for the rebate has been provided.

Keeping the Flow Continuous

Once you receive your incentive offer letter, there’s always a push to begin the project and begin realizing the savings. However, for educational facilities, it’s extremely important to ensure work performed does not disrupt students in any significant way. When administrators consider the best time to perform these projects, summer break is often the first option that comes to mind. While it offers plenty of down time, facilities find themselves waiting to begin projects and receive rebates when, in actuality, there’s no need to wait.

In fact, 85% of LED installations are completed during the school year after regular class hours due to the speed and ease in which LED retrofit projects can be implemented by an experienced organization.

The goal for these projects is to increase energy efficiency with upgraded lighting that delivers visible reductions on the next energy bill and visible improvement in light quality in the classroom.

Depending on the size of the team, approximately 10-20 classrooms can be upgraded with LED retrofits per night, including clean-up efforts. As a result, students and faculty come back to a well-lit classroom that looks completely untouched even though the new lights have increased energy efficiency by up to 60%.

Financing and Maintenance Savings

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of LED lighting projects for educational facilities is the reasonable financing and municipal money that can be fairly easy to secure when compared to other organizations. Learning facilities are often able to secure finance rates as low as 1.4 – 2% for LED retrofit projects. When you combine extremely low financing rates with a 60% energy savings, many projects deliver immediate positive cash-flow. LED retrofit projects, with their fast returns on investment and their ability to deliver cash-flow positive returns, provide universities a valuable opportunity to allocate scarce budget dollars elsewhere.

Financing isn’t the only vehicle providing savings on LED retrofit projects. There is also the benefit of the LED’s durable construction and 10-year warranty. While facilities invest in the technologies and projects themselves, a product warranty provides the safety net for the technology investment. Regardless of rebates, financing rates, or the return on investment horizon, educational facilities receive ten years of guaranteed energy savings thus providing one of the best returns available. While budget cuts may be impacting many private colleges and universities, educational facilities have a great opportunity for savings with LED lighting. At this point, educational environment should be looking to LED lighting for a brighter and safer learning environment, a significant amount of power reduction, and significant savings.

About the Author
Bob Ostrander is vice president of Tri-State LED, a division of Revolution Lighting Technologies, providing comprehensive LED lighting retrofit solutions that deliver the most positive, visible impact for its customers.