Contractor Finds Niche Selling Energy Efficient Lighting to Businesses
Utility Rebates Make Lighting Upgrades Affordable
PHOENIX, AZ—Arizona utilities Tucson Electric Power (TEP) and Arizona Public Service (APS) announced 2013 energy savings from their efficiency programs today, and Art Ledner is proud of his company’s contributions to the results.
Ledner and his Green Energy Guys sales team at Inline Electrical Resources have gone door to door in the Arizona business community and completed 2,200 lighting efficiency upgrades since 2006, the year when APS began offering rebates to businesses to encourage energy efficiency upgrades (TEP followed with programs in 2009). Those lighting upgrades have saved a total 160 million kWh of electricity since 2009, Ledner said, enough to power more than 11,000 homes for a year. Inline Electrical Resources won a BrightEE award from TEP in February for its contribution to the success of the utility’s energy efficiency programs.
For the year 2013, APS reported total energy savings of 539 GWh from its programs. Similarly, TEP reported a total of 177 GWh —165% more than savings from the prior year.
“The energy efficiency programs of these two utilities are very effective and the measures installed in 2013 will save customers more than $110 million net from reduced power consumption and saved water,” said Jeff Schlegel, Arizona representative of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP), a public interest organization that advances energy efficiency in the Southwest.
“The programs—as great as they are—do not sell themselves,” said a cheerful, lanky Ledner. “Every business owner that I talk to remembers seeing energy efficiency commercials on TV, but it takes contactors going out and telling people about the programs, how they work, and what the benefits are before people apply it to their own business.”
Ledner rattled off his team’s 30-second elevator speech. After intros, he says that Inline Electrical does a free energy survey that shows exactly how much the customer can save each month by upgrading lights. The utility will pay up to 90% of the cost of the upgrade and the customer can save 10% or more on electric bills thereafter, he tells clients.
That was the case with ACCEL Schools (Arizona Centers for Comprehensive Education and Life Skills), a Phoenix non-profit that educates children with special needs. The main campus building in Phoenix and satellite classrooms in Tempe had outdated lighting that the school couldn’t afford to upgrade. Ledner audited the facilities and estimated an APS rebate for energy efficiency upgrades could cover all but $1,200, ACCEL’s cost of the $5,000 project. Kurtis Medlyn, ACCEL’s head of maintenance and facilities, said ACCEL will save money with lower utility bills and free up money for student programs that compete for scarce funds.
“Just as important as cost-savings is the direct benefit to sensitive students of lighting systems that no longer buzz, flicker and produce glare,” said Medlyn. “The new lights are calming and a lot less distracting.”
Arizona utilities agree that energy efficiency is the least-expensive, cleanest and safest way for them to produce more electricity. All customers pay for the programs through small surcharges on monthly utility bills, and those who take advantage of rebates—or any discounted efficiency product—come out ahead.
Ledner said the biggest objection he hears about utility business energy efficiency programs is, “It sounds too good to be true.”
Ken Tucker, chief executive officer of the Boy Scouts of America Catalina Council based in Tucson, said Ledner “told me the reduction in costs would be pretty significant, and he was right.” Tucker was looking to upgrade old light fixtures and save money in Boy Scout headquarters, a warehouse and retreat lodge. The lighting retrofit was completed last fall and the Council now saves about 25% on its utility bill, he said. “They did all the paperwork and Tucson Electric covered 80% of the cost.”
Talking to people about energy efficiency is something Ledner loves to do. Not only is it Inline’s bread and butter business, but Ledner promotes the environmental benefits of energy efficiency as well. Upon project completion, Ledner presents each customer with a certificate that lists the environmental benefits of their lighting upgrade—saving water in arid Arizona and reducing air pollution by lowering the electricity demand on power plants. He jokes that he worked in the printing industry for 18 years and has to make up for all the trees that were chopped down to make paper.
Ellen Zuckerman, Arizona representative for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP): (609) 610-2989; email@example.com; Jeff Schlegel, SWEEP AZ rep in Tucson: 520-907-1088
Art Ledner, Inline Electrical Resources: 520-247-5592 (mobile) firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Tucker, Catalina Council of the Boy Scouts of America: email@example.com (520) 750-0385
Kurtis Medlyn, head of maintenance, ACCEL Schools: (602) 995-7366