Financial Incentives for Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings (text version)

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Commercial Real Estate Energy Alliance (CREEA) hosted a webinar detailing how energy-efficiency incentives can impact commercial real estate organizations and favorably impact the financials of energy-efficiency investments. The presenters were Jason Erwin, Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE); Brian Lips, the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE); and Charlie Goulding of Energy Tax Savers, Inc. They provided key insights and information on accessing local, state, utility, and federal energy-efficiency incentives (including the Federal 179D Tax Incentive) to help participants navigate the often-difficult energy-efficiency incentive landscape more easily.

Below is the text version of the webinar titled "Financial Incentives for Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings," originally presented on August 3, 2011. In addition to this text version of the audio, you can view the presentation slides and a recording of the Webinar (WMV 54 MB).

Kristen Taddonio:
All right. Welcome, everybody, to our Financial Incentives for Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings Webinar. My name is Kristen Taddonio. I'm with the U.S. Department of Energy, and specifically I'm here with the Commercial Building Energy Alliances—a public/private partnership working together to improve the efficiency of member portfolios and deploy advanced technologies. We have an exciting agenda ahead of us today, but first I just wanted to take care of a bit of housekeeping. On the right-hand side of your screen, you should see a panel, which allows you to input questions, so please do feel free to use that function during presentations if you have questions. We're gonna be compiling them and tracking them here and we'll get to as many of those questions as we possibly can at the end of the presentation. So with that, why don't we advance to our first slide here, and introduce our speakers, consisting of Jason Erwin from the CEE, Brian Lips from the Database on State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, and also Charles R. Goulding, an attorney and CPA and president of Energy Tax Savers—one of the nation's leading service providers that has completed tens of thousands of projects, helping companies take advantage of the EPAct tax incentive. So, very briefly, Jason Erwin is manager of the commercial program at the Consortium for Energy Efficiency. CEE, for those who aren't familiar with it, is a consortium of over 130 energy-efficiency program administrators from across the United States and Canada, working together to increase the effectiveness of energy-efficiency programs. So in Jason's role, he oversees all of the CEE building programs, including the commercial building program summary of incentives that he will be talking about today. Brian Lips works for the North Carolina Solar Center, which is on contract at DOE and others, maintaining the Database on State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. His current work involves researching and then summarizing all of the policies and incentives [Mic cuts out and goes to static for 10 seconds] and contacts incentives. So with that brief introduction, I think we will turn it over to our first speaker. Can we hear him? Please bear with us as we're trying to enable the air microphone here.

Jason Erwin:
OK, great. This is Jason. Can everybody hear me now?

Kristen Taddonio:
We can hear you just fine.

Jason Erwin:
OK, terrific, Kristen, thanks, and hopefully you can see my presentation as well. So, thanks very much, Kristen, and to the Building Technologies Program at DOE for inviting me to the call. When I was asked to present at the webinar, I had to think about what I could offer you today. CEE, as Kristen mentioned, is a consortium of energy efficiency program administrators across the U.S. and Canada, so in my role, in the work that I do, we really produce products and services for the members to help them do their jobs more effectively. But as Kristen mentioned, we do have some resources and tools that may be of use to you, so in my brief 10 minutes today, I'll cover a little bit of context about the Voluntary Ratepayer Funded Efficiency Program Industry and CEE; introduce some of the initiatives where CEE members work together; and then also identify CEE resources that may help you to identify and leverage voluntary efficiency programs and resources to help you improve the energy performance of your buildings. So the first slide here is a picture of the combined budgets for efficiency programs across the U.S. and Canada. And as you can see over the past four years, the amount of money ratepayer-funded programs to encourage energy efficiency across the buildings, the residential and the industrial markets, continues to go up. Now, that's not a forward-looking statement, but certainly one based on past performance and in 2010, these programs administered combined budgets of $7.5 billion U.S. So it's quite a bit of money to help customers, such as yourself, improve energy efficiency. And I will say that 2011 data collection is under way and we expect to have that picture ready by the fall time frame. This Slide 3 is a bit of a breakdown of that budget, and I'd just like to highlight that—in particular, the commercial and industrial program budgets in 2010, and this is both for electric as well as natural gas programs we're over $2.25 billion, so quite a substantial sum of the total. And I'll be briefly sharing with you a website link where you can access more information about the efficiency program industry and the data that were used to populate these slides. So, CEE members are very diverse. They are—many of them—utilities that run ratepayer-funded efficiency programs. They're governed by their public utility commissions. Some of them are statewide program administrators. They work and operate in different business models, different climates, goals and regulatory conditions, but through initiatives that target specific energy savings areas, and through products like common performance specifications, they can work together to address, with partners, national market barrier and challenges. And so, with respect to the commercial side of our work portfolio, these are the miniature areas listed where CEE has initiative and where CEE members come together to work more effectively. And as one illustrative example, with respect to commercial HVAC, CEE has had—and members have come together for over 15 years—to define a common performance specification for rooftop units, for commercial buildings. And over 50 members promote a common performance specification for rooftop unit equipment, providing tiered incentives based on cost-effective improvements in energy performance, and really have tried to help their customers leverage those monies to buy efficient equipment that meets your need. As many of you recognize, individually manufacturers would not produce energy-efficient equipment to meet the specifications or performance differences by state lines, even in markets as big as California's. So through a common specification, through harmonization of performance requirements, really creates a basis for manufacturers to compete on those lines and an incentive for them to bring products and services to market. And CEE has several specifications for different equipment, as you can note here in this slide. Note quickly on Slide 6 that this is the scope and breadth and availability of efficiency programs. These are the states and provinces where CEE has members. Not that all the members offer the programs I mentioned on the last slide, but a majority of our members will offer some of these programs, and even if it's not captured, a lot of them have custom offerings, so, I encourage you to work with them. Here are a couple of CEE resources Kristen wanted me to make sure you were [Mic cuts out to static for 10 seconds] for it that's a collection of the data that supports the slides I mentioned earlier. The first is really our annual commercial program summary. I'll get into that in just a moment, and provide a little bit of detail. A second resource is—for those of you that may be looking towards more, let's say, comprehensive or longer-term commitments or energy improvement, or energy management—we've recently completed a detailed program summary on members that offer continuous energy improvement and energy management programs. And let me just give you a couple of illustrative examples here. So with respect to the high-level commercial program summary, you can go to the CEE website and search by either topic, and you can see here the major work areas across the top column of that picture, or by program. So it starts with the Canadian members, but by region, you can look all the way across the spectrum, and if you're interested in working in Chicago or New York or California or in the Midwest or wherever, you can search by program and I just pulled a screen shot here. One example: If you were to search for commercial lighting programs and you can then go into this spreadsheet, download that for your reference and search by state or province for technologies that may be of interest for you. If you're looking for high-performance 32-watt TH systems for your office space or whatnot, then you can search for those. There's solid-state lighting technologies. There are a whole host of technologies that are even beyond what CEE supports in terms of common performance specifications. So that's a resource for you. The other example I mentioned is a deeper dive on whole-building performance, continuous energy improvement, and energy management programs. And you can download that document from the website. The link provided. Just to show you the kinds of strategies that these members are offering. They include things like whole-building benchmarking, commissioning of existing buildings. They include other offerings like providing you with ongoing energy management and information services, so again, an illustrative example and something you can download immediately. So finally, I'll just conclude with the CEE mission, and I know one of the points made often is that programs are very diverse and makes it hard for operators—national-level operators, or global-level operators—to take advantage of the program. There's a few resources, hopefully you found today, that would be useful to you in that respect. And really, CEE's mission is to have members come together on an industry basis to increase the harmonization of programs and help these programs become more effective to dance efficiency for the public benefit, and I mention a couple of ways in which they've done that. So, I'll conclude there and see if there are any questions, or we can hold those to the end.

Kristen Taddonio:
I think we would ask people to please do type in their questions, but we would like to hold questions until the end of the panel. Our next speaker is going to be Brian Lips from DSIRE. He has already been introduced, so we will hand the control over to him.

Brian Lips:
Thank you all for giving me the opportunity to talk to you today about the project I work on. I'm gonna start with a little overview of DSIRE and then I'll move into the actual live website and give you a little tour of the website. So first, this project has been going on since 1995. It's always been housed at the North Carolina Solar Center and our funding, primarily, has always come from the U.S. Department of Energy. Our database has over 2,700 different financial incentives and regulatory policies for renewable energies and energy efficiency, and we get right about 200,000 different, unique visitors every month. So our database—it's comprehensive with state-level incentives. Any tax incentive, rebating, loan, or grant that fits within our scope, you will find in DSIRE. And that includes the territories and Washington, D.C. We also have all federal financial incentives and policies for renewable energy and energy efficiency and we have most utility financial incentives. Every investor-owned utility in the country that has rebate programs or loan programs, you can find in DSIRE, but there's literally thousands of municipal utilities and cooperative utilities and it would be impossible for us to be comprehensive with those. So for those small utilities, we focus just on those that have 30,000 or more customers. All told, that represents about 95 percent of the population in the U.S. And we also have examples of local policies and incentives. Much like immunities and co-ops, there's thousands of local governments out there, if you look at cities and counties, and it would not be possible for us to capture all of those comprehensively, so we focus, in that case, just on the larger cities and counties up there. If you look at the kind of categories of incentives we capture, we have a wide breadth of financial incentives and regulatory policies. I'll show you where, in DSIRE, once we go to that part of the presentation, I'll show you where you can find our glossary of terms to see what all these different categories actually mean. So what is not in DSIRE? Incentives offered by private companies and nonprofits. We haven't seen a whole lot of these, but we have seen some and in this case, it would be impossible for us to be comprehensive with capturing every solar company out there that has a grant program for nonprofits or something like that. So rather than potentially playing favorites, we just stay out of that game altogether. In research and development incentives, commercialization incentives, and demonstration projects, that's all outside the scope of DSIRE. We're focused just on programs that result in actual equipment on the ground. And also, it would be very difficult for us to capture all the one-time grant opportunities out there and it wouldn't be a good investment of our time, so we avoid those as well. So, you're looking at just commercial incentives for energy efficiency. We have a total of 716 different financial incentives for energy efficiency projects and commercial buildings in DSIRE. Of those, 123 are administered by state governments; 524 from utility governments, or utility companies; and the balance comes from federal government and local governments. So those are pretty big numbers we're talking about, and if you approach DSIRE in certain ways, it's going to be very much like drinking from a fire hose, so I'll show you some tools we have in DSIRE that make it a bit easier to get a more manageable list of just the things that you're interested in. So if this works, I'll transfer us over to DSIRE. And this is the main homepage for DSIRE. Mind the spelling here, it's DSIRE USA.org I'm not sure if there's a website that spells is D-E-S-I-R-E USA.org, but you probably don't want to try to figure that out on a work computer. So, you can see I wave my mouse over these states and they light up. So let's click on California. And here's the fire hose I was talking about. You can see these are categorized by incentive type, but if we scroll down the page here, you see the list becomes quite long and these are all the utility programs here. So that can be a bit daunting. So I'll back up and go back to the home page here. We have this button here "Search DSIRE" and wherever you are on our website, you can also get to the search tool on the left panel here. So if I click this, let's say I'm interested in lighting incentives in California. So let's select our eligible sector here "commercial". Select state or territory. We'll say, "California" and technology, we'll say, "Lighting." And I don't care if the federal government's gonna give me the money, state government, or utility, and I don't care what type of incentive it is, I just want to see all the available money out there for lighting projects in the commercial sector in California. So click there to search, and you can see this is a smaller list and these are just the things that'll apply to commercial incentives for lighting projects. And if you know your utility company, it'll be pretty easy. Let's see, GG&E Non-Residential Energy Efficiency Rebates, here and this is the same kind of basic page you'll see for all of our incentives. The top portion has some very broad—a quick glimpse at the incentive and there we have a little narrative that goes into a greater detail and we have contact information with the utility. We also have a link to the program website and you'll notice here we just say very basic information about their lighting incentives, but some of these lighting incentives can be pretty involved. We might not go into that level of detail, so it's always good to go to the actual source and look up the information that they have available. But you can see in just two clicks I was able to get to all this program [Mic cuts out to static for four seconds] lighting rebates. All of our incentive information for utility efficiency programs are manually updated by us once every six months and the rest of our content is updated once every 11 months. In part of that review process, we go to the actual program websites and physically review everything and then we follow up with a contact we have at the utility or state government to confirm that our summary is accurate. So, hopefully, that's enough to get you started. Oh, and I also mentioned our glossary of terms. It's all the different policy categories and incentive categories are found here. You can click on them and read a little description of what that actually represents. So, that's probably all the time I got. My contact information is here if you have any questions, and thank you very much.

Kristen Taddonio:
All right. Thank you very much. And I believe at this point we are ready to go to our final presenter. Now, we're gonna switch gears a little bit. We've been talking to you primarily about incentives, broadly speaking, and now we're gonna get a little bit more specific and talk specifically about the EPAct tax incentive, so with that, Mr. Goulding.

Charles Goulding:
I'm gonna be talking about two types of federal tax incentives, so in this case, the incentives are gonna be available across [Mic cuts out to static for five seconds] The good news with the Energy Policy Act, is back in 2008, the benefits were extended for five more years, so the benefits we're gonna talk about are available for eight years. From January 1, 2006, through December 31, 2013. The benefits are available based on ASHRAE Definition. I've been a tax attorney for 35 years. This law disregards conventional definitions of a building and substitutes the ASHRAE rule set and ASHRAE defines a building by its three major subsets: lighting, HVAC, and building envelope. Building envelope is anything on the perimeter of a building touches the outside world. Roofs, doors, windows, walls, foundation. What's nice about the law is it's available for new construction and it's available for existing buildings. Back when the law was enacted on January 1, 2006, new construction was strong. As most of the people on this call realized new construction came pretty much to a halt in recent years, so currently for existing building retrofits. What's also nice about the law, it's available for tenant investments, or it's available for owner investments. Often in commercial lease situations, the economic onus for a lighting and sometimes even a HVAC retrofit is on a tenant. This law does really care who takes the tax benefit. It correlates to whoever's responsible for the economic investment. Classic example would be a mall. If a retail tenant makes the lighting investment, the tenant gets the incentive, whereas if the mall operator makes the investment for a common space or a parking garage, the mall operator gets the benefit. And lastly, benefits are available for primary designers on government buildings. Primary designers include architects, engineers, lighting specifiers, ESCOs, and they can share it amongst the design team members any way they see fit. Now, the key in our view with energy-efficiency projects and actually, this presentation was well organized along these same lines, it is to integrate the major economic drivers. First and foremost, you're seeking energy savings. Frankly, that's where the real money is. This is the item that comes in No. 2—you just had an excellent presentation from DSIRE—its utility rebates. The tax savings—the Energy Policy Act, the kind of stuff that we work on—is probably No. 3 in the hierarchy. And then another big item in certain projects is alternative energy tax credits. Now these, in our view, are the big four. There are other economic drivers, such as maintenance savings. Now, if you're trying to get a hail honest tax incentive and say, "Well, what is this thing worth?" Well, it's $0.60 a measure. So, using the first 50,000 square footage example, one can get up to a $0.60 or $30,000 immediate lighting tax deduction, or one can get the same immediate $30,000 HVAC tax deduction, or a building envelope tax deduction and when you add 'em across, it comes to $1.80 per square foot. Now, note for those who are not familiar with tax—these are tax deductions, not tax credits. So to monetize it or figure out what's the cash value—to me, you have to tax a tax rate and most times in the corporate world, we presume 35 percent federal rates. So you have to take 35 percent of these numbers to come up with the economic benefit. And note the footnote on the bottom. With a government building—could be a federal government building, state university, could be a K through 12 public school—the benefits go to the design team. I wanted to give you some idea who's using EPAct currently. First of all, we're seeing a tremendous amount of LED lighting projects. LED lighting is starting to mainstream into the building technology. It uses low wattage levels and typically qualifies. High efficiency HVAC—I'm gonna cover what we mean by that. Increasingly, now that solar PV prices have fallen materially, we're seeing a tremendous amount of solar—a record amount of solar—go into installation in the United States and EPAct is perfect in order to get a building ready for solar. I'm gonna cover that briefly. And then lastly, lead buildings are particularly well platformed for the tax incentives. I want to talk just briefly about major lighting bands, because it's important to realize that our federal government is doing two things. Legislation has been passed that bands—prior generation lighting. Doesn't mean that the lighting police are gonna come to somebody's building and remove it. What it really means is this lighting can no longer be manufactured in the United States for importing into the United States. The end result is it behooves most property owners to change it out. Otherwise, as this lighting becomes less and less available, it's gonna cost them more to replace it, despite the fact that it's energy inefficient. This slide really summarizes the lighting incentive and it's probably the most important take-away to know, is that you're comparing your new achievements, your new wattage reduction, to an ASHRAE standard out of a book. A lot of people think, "I'm making a major energy reduction. I guess I'm going to get tax savings." And we have to say, "Well the real measure is not your current state to what you're achieving, it's always what you're achieving compared to a baseline standard out of a book". It's important to realize that lighting is a measure where you can get partial tax deduction. It's the only measure where you can get as low as $0.30 per square foot up to $0.60, and you can fall out anyplace in between radially depending on the wattage levels that you achieve. Well, we've done with this thought is we've shown you on a left hand column some of the most common spaces in office manufacturing, school, retail, warehouse. And then we show you the wattage levels you need to achieve in order to get tax deduction. Probably the most important take-away for anybody that has a warehouse. Warehouse is the only category where you're totally up or down, meaning for warehouse, you must get your wattage down to 0.60 or less to qualify for tax incentives. Our government felt that that was achievable, so no partial tax deductions. Otherwise, you can fall between $0.30 and $0.60. HVAC—what we've learned in working with the law for six years is that certain types of HVAC are going to typically going to result in tax deduction. It has to be very energy efficient HVAC because the HVAC itself has to result in a total building energy cost reduction of 16 and two-thirds percent compared to ASHRAE 2001. So some of the measures here—geothermal—very efficient technology. Thermal storage, we would say making ice at night to cool the building down during the day. A very common category is chillers in buildings less than 150,000 square feet, because ASHRAE—the ASHRAE reference buildings to a package unit and chillers, by definition, are more efficient in a package unit. So, the take-away here is anytime you have one of these HVAC technologies, you should make inquiries to see, "What am I qualified for tax incentives?" This next slide, we wanted to bring to your attention—particularly with what's going on in the country currently. As many of you are aware, we've had tremendous natural gas finds. The Marcellus covering Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and two or three other states in the Northeast. The Utica in Ohio, the Hayworth in Texas. We have tremendous amounts of natural gas coming on stream at very favorable price points. These are examples of the first projects we worked on where people put in a combination of energy-efficient lighting and natural gas heaters. This slide's designed to illustrate how holistic the tax law is. The tax law wants to reward you if you get total building energy reduction. In a non-air conditioned warehouse, lighting is the biggest energy user, and when you study this slide in your leisure, and you say, "I wonder why some people got $1.20 and other people got the $1.80?" we know mathematically that in most cases, you need to get your wattage down to 0.45. You'll see that the people that drove your wattage down to 0.45 or less, and installed an energy-efficient heater, tended to get the $1.80. If the wattage is higher than 0.45, they tend to get the $1.20.

LEED buildings. Back in 2006, we didn't have as many LEED buildings in the country. Now, there's a tremendous number of LEED buildings. The advantage for the Energy Policy Act is LEED buildings are already modeled. The Energy Policy Act, HVAC, and envelope tax deductions require modeling. Since the model already exists, someone familiar with LEED and familiar with EPAct can take an existing LEED modeling template—which is the EA1 credit—and right from analyzing that credit, can determine if a building is what I call "in the money." Already in the money. It's already a very energy-efficient building. Then by making it more energy efficient, it's much more probable you're gonna get a tax deduction. That concludes, really, everything I was gonna say with regard to the Energy Policy Act. I wanted to briefly cover alternative energy tax credits. We have never had such an extensive regime of alternative energy tax credits. Many of these credits go out till January 1, 2017—such as those for geothermal and solar and combined heat and power. And what's really fascinating is you can get either the credit level there, or you can get a cash grant. Cash grants are only available for projects that need a safe harbor by December 31, 2011. Where this is important to realize there are many commercial property owners in the country—particularly during the economic downturn—that don't have tax capacity, so they don't have an appetite for tax credits, but everyone can always use cash. It's actually a remarkable regime. If you meet the criteria, the money gets wire transferred into your bank account generally within 60 days of project completion. Now, the next topic integrates the first two topics. What's happening—as I mentioned before—as a result of rapidly declining solar PV pricing. Solar economic payback is getting much more favorable, in particular, in those states that have [Mic cuts out to static for four seconds] or again from the DSIRE website. Now, in order to put on solar, the best way to optimize your economic return is to first make your building energy efficient. One would not want to have alternative energy generation in an inefficient building because you'd be wasting the alternative energy generation. So what many of our customers are doing—and it goes back to that slide where you saw the 10 million in deductions—for warehouses and industrial buildings, which are often your best solar candidates, what they're doing is they're putting in energy-efficient lighting, they're putting in energy-efficient natural gas heaters, they're triggering the $1.80 tax deduction. The $1.80 tax deduction far exceeds the cost of their lighting and heaters and then a rebate and they take the excess tax deductions and they put them into the roof improvements that they typically need in order to get ready for their solar projects. So this slide illustrates how all of these things come together and integrate. And that concludes the tax presentation.

Kristen Taddonio:
Thank you very much. We have a number of questions that have already come in and more on the way, so I figured we'd start the Q&A session with a question for Charlie and that is—the question that recently came in was: "Can you please go over again what determines high-efficiency HVAC?"

Charles Goulding:
Yes. For purposes of the tax law, the HVAC measure has to result in a 16 and two-thirds percent energy cost reduction compared to ASHRAE 2001. And you determine whether you've reached that achievement by using building energy simulation modeling. What we tried to do with that list is help people to have a little bit of a filtering mechanism because in the course of looking at thousands of HVAC projects, those are the 12 or 13 HVAC technologies we see that work. Doesn't mean there might not be other ones. That's our experience from our universe.

Kristen Taddonio:
Thank you very much. Another question that came in was related to CEE vs. DSIRE and the question specifically was, "Are all of the CEE incentives listed on DSIRE's website? What are the name differences between the two?" So hoping our first two speakers could address some of the differences, both in terms of content and frequency of updates.

Male:
I just took you guys off mute, so whichever one wants to start, you're good to go.

Brian Lips:
Well, I'll take a—[Mic cuts out for four seconds] DSIRE does include other things other than energy efficiency. Renewable energy technologies, and then also these policies that kind of are the motivators for these incentives. Just looking at the CEE presentation earlier, it looks like they go a bit more in depth than we do, and I'd actually like to talk to the presenter offline to kind of compare how we get our data.

Jason Erwin:
Hi, this is Jason and I also appreciate Brian's presentation, and I think you probably noted there are a number of similarities. In fact, I know I've used the DSIRE database quite a bit in my own personal research. You know, we have a couple of different objectives for collecting information. The public basing information is one part of that. A lot of other objectives relate to internal planning, supporting our national or bi-national initiatives. We do include—as Brian knew I think there's some scope differences with respect to our data summaries and collections are for the CEE members. Those include the CEE members both in the U.S. and Canada and in terms of the depth, I think we do get into some of the meat of the programs in a little bit more detail and one opportunity I think is to identify how these kind of summaries might be made. More useful, in general, we've had industry partnerships with the manufacturing community and their trade associations and we geared them towards those communities. But I think it offers us an opportunity to look at how we might synergize and maybe make these more effective.

Kristen Taddonio:
Another question that came in and targeted to Jason specifically is, "Does DSIRE include anything for water-efficiency initiatives? And if not, do you know of any resources that do?"

Brian Lips:
This is Brian with DSIRE. This is outside of our scope of our contract with the U.S. Department of Energy, so no; DSIRE does not track water incentives. I know EPA has their Water Sense program, which is a lot like ENERGY STAR. That's Water Sense. S-E-N-S-E. And their website has a rebate finder on there, and I haven't really tested it out and I'm admittedly not really up to snuff on water-efficiency programs, but I know that's one resource that's out there for it.

Jason Erwin:
Kristen, this is Jason. There's a few resources that—and I can follow up offline with the questioner. Commercial kitchens and food service area—there's a number of programs. That and CEE specifications that do capture water efficiency where that's relevant. And on the CEE website, the interested person can look at the commercial kitchens area and identify—there's a water droplet next to the specifications if it has a water efficiency component and then the program summary should have some information on available water programs. But again, I think that's really within the kind of commercial food service area particularly.

Kristen Taddonio:
Great. Another question. "Is there a way to subscribe to get the latest incentives that meets a person's individual criteria as they're added to, say, the DSIRE database?"

Brian Lips:
There is. On DSIRE's homepage, on the left side of the screen, you'll see this link for "What's new," and clicking on that will show new incentives added to DSIRE during the last two months, and it'll show programs that have been updated in the past two months. Now clicking on that will likely return a very long list and it's not really—you can't really tell what has changed with any of these programs. So we do offer some fee for service tools that we could sell on a subscription basis, and I could talk to the questioner offline about that if they're interested.

Kristen Taddonio:
Great. Another question pertaining to learning about incentives in advance and then also about knowing when those incentives have perhaps ended or run out of funds. Could the presenters, perhaps, tell us a little bit about whether or not there's a place that they can go to learn about incentives that are under consideration or perhaps soon to be announced? And then also, oftentimes, people run into a problem of applying for an incentive only to find that the utility or state program has run out of money. So you could speak, perhaps, a bit to how soon you take incentives down once they have run out of money or are defunded?

Brian Lips:
Jason, do you want to speak to that from CEE's perspective?

Jason Erwin:
Yeah, I can take that, Brian, and I would say that—I didn't mention this, but the frequency of our updates is annual. Though when we do learn that a program is discontinued or the funding has run out, we do try to make that information available and update them on a more or less, as-we-are-notified basis. I'm not aware of a mechanism or a central place at this point for getting an advanced notice of when new programs are under way. I think that's a—I can understand and appreciate the need. I think that's a real tough order given the frequency of many programs are not uniform at all. Some states or utilities operate with three-year cycles; others have annual cycles or three-year cycles, and the funding can come and go with respect to demand, and I think that's a challenge. We do try to update our summaries when we learn about these and rely to some extent on our members to keep us informed about those, and then again, try to do our summaries either annually—in some cases twice a year.

Brian Lips:
I'll say from DSIRE's perspective—we're kind of faced with the same dilemma. But anytime we do hear about any program changes, we certainly go ahead and make those changes as soon as we hear about them. If a big utility in California runs out of money for solar rebates, that usually makes a lot of press and we have various Google news alerts that I subscribe to and newsletters I get, so I'll catch those changes pretty quickly. But if a utility company in Missouri decides to suspend their lighting rebates temporarily, that usually won't make the news, so that kind of stuff can slip through the cracks sometimes, which is why we update and review all of our entries every six months. Must be off by five months and 29 days or whatever. But as far as knowing when new programs are coming out, that is a very—these investor and utilities typically have to follow their new rebate program plans with the state's utilities commission. So if you feel like trolling around a very arcane and confusing utility commission website to see what kind of filings are out there, that's the only way I know of other than just every day checking the utility program's website to see if there's anything new on there.

Kristen Taddonio:
Great. We have another question related to the federal tax incentives, and that is a very basic question. "Is EPAct the same as 179D?"

Charles Goulding:
Yes. The code section is 179D. That's correct.

Kristen Taddonio:
And then the follow-up question to that is, "Is there any way to quickly screen whether or not my property may qualify for an incentive without having to hire a contractor?"

Charles Goulding:
Yeah, and that's a good question. I wanted to say two things. First of all, IRS came out in January of 2011 with a very favorable announcement. They recognized that many commercial taxpayers missed the deduction. They were not aware of it 2006 and 2007. Per that announcement, you can now analyze your project and if you qualify, you can report it on your next filed tax return. You no longer have to amend a prior tax return. That's a major benefit, particularly for investor-owned organizations like hotels where there might be 10 investors and they didn't want to go back and amend all their personal tax returns. The second answer. There are many service providers besides ourselves, but in our model, we will analyze any project on a complimentary basis, and I think some of the other ones will, too. And we'll tell you whether you qualify or not without a fee, because quite honestly, no one wants to pay a service provider unless they're in the money.

Kristen Taddonio:
Great. We have a follow-on question. And that is, "What happens if you are, say, a building manager, and many of your clients are tax exempt. Is there any way to capture the benefit, or would it not benefit me?"

Charles Goulding:
Yeah, when you have—and this is a gap in the area, it wasn't really purposeful. Initially, the law was only gonna cover commercial taxpayers; then it was expanded to cover the design community for government buildings. The only way you can monetize something with not-for-profits is if you deal with an organization that will lease the equipment to you, then they can take the tax benefit. So otherwise, not-for-profits do not get the same opportunities. I will say that in many jurisdictions, recognizing there are not tax benefits, many utilities offer not-for-profits higher rebates than commercial companies, so that's one way sometimes to fill the gap.

Kristen Taddonio:
One thing that I would add on to this is that DOE has undertaken a recent initiative to try and create an easy-to-use online tool for interested companies to quickly screen whether or not their properties may qualify for an incentive, and the link to that—if anybody is interested in exploring it—is 179D.energy.gov. Again, that's 179D.energy.gov. At this point, we're going to open the floor to additional questions. Does anybody else have a question that they would like to ask to any of our panelists?

[Crosstalk for 12 seconds]

You know what? We tried an experiment and determined that the experiment of taking everybody off mute was perhaps a bad one, so with that, unless we get any more questions, I think that concludes our presentation. Oh, we do have one more, and that is, "Where might you find a qualified person that can advise on whether or not a project qualifies?"

Charles Goulding:
This is Charlie. One way to do it is to call NEMA. If it's lighting, you can call NEMA—the National Electric Manufacturing Association. I think they'll give you some advice as to some resources for doing that. If it's lighting, most of the major lighting manufacturers can suggest some resources to you.

Kristen Taddonio:
All right. Well that concludes our presentation for the day. We will follow up with additional questions that may come in after the presentation individually with those people. You will be able to access this presentation on the DOE website. We will send all of the participants that registered a link once that is publically posted and additionally, when you sign off, you may find an exit survey, and we do encourage everybody who has participated to answer a few questions and perhaps suggest new topics for DOE webinars in the future. So with that, thank you again, very much to all of our presenters. Thank you to those of you who have dialed in and have a great afternoon.

Charles Goulding:
Thank you.

Jason Erwin:
Thanks, Kristen.

Brian Lips:
Thanks.

[End of Audio]