Sometimes it's necessary to spend money to save much more money.
That's what occurred when the owners of the Scott family auto dealership in Allentown took advantage of PPL Electric Utilities Inc. energy incentives for business owners.
“In today's clutter of business, it was going right over my head,” said Richard Salezze, co-owner with dealership namesake Andy Scott. “We just came through the [economic] crash and the last thing we wanted to do was invest more money.”
The Scott dealership spent thousands of dollars, primarily on new lighting solutions, that it recouped in two years in energy savings, in part thanks to PPL's energy incentive programs that ran from 2009 and expire at the end of this month.
Now, PPL is launching another energy-efficiency program, effective June 1, in which businesses can benefit with rebates, incentives and – the ultimate goal – long-term savings in energy costs. Incentives include money back for recycling old appliances, upfront discounts on energy efficient equipment, rebates for using improved heating, air conditioning and lighting fixtures and the savings realized from reduced power consumption.
The program was a success the first time and PPL officials believe it will be again.
“We have a lot of no cost or low cost [procedures],” said Joe Nixon, a PPL spokesman. “We continue to want to engage them [business customers] to help them become involved with those programs.”
At Scott, the energy-savings effort began in 2010 when representatives from Dun-Rite Electrical Services Inc. and Lighting Fixture & Supply Co. visited the dealerships.
“They assured us we would realize savings quickly, asked about the [PPL] program and if we wanted to have a study done,” Salezze said. “It took them about 90 days – they did a very comprehensive study by department.”
The Chevrolet, Cadillac, Mazda and Volvo dealership has six buildings with four showrooms on 14 acres with 146 full-time employees and about 25 who work part-time. It has sold an average of 2,900 new and used cars annually for each of the last four years since the recession, Salezze said.
It wasn't necessary to upgrade everything at once, so it began by replacing lighting fixtures that were more than two years old in its older buildings.
“We looked at prices and costs,” Salezze said. “They told us if we spent $12,000 on the building, we would save that in energy costs in 24 months.”
Many discounts are available to the individual customer, but the sheer volume of electricity used by businesses and special incentives designed specifically for small companies could make it a very desirable cost-cutting measure for entrepreneurs.
According to Nixon, service delivered to companies below the 12,000-volt mark qualifies as a small business.
Under Pennsylvania's Act 129 Energy Conservation Law of 2008, the Public Utilities Commission directed a series of programs for energy companies to become more efficient.
“We've been in the business of helping customers before the act, but it allowed us to expand some things we were already doing,” Nixon said.
PPL offered a series of programs from 2009 to May 2011 in an attempt to reduce annual energy consumption by 1 percent and another round of programs to reduce annual consumption by 3 percent between June 2011 and this month, he said.
According to Nixon, PPL met the 1 percent goal and believes it will meet the 3 percent goal at the end of the month when the figures are tabulated.
Another round of programs is scheduled to go into effect on June 1 and run through May 31, 2016, seeking a 2.1 percent annual reduction in power consumption by giving business customers incentives to be more efficient.
“Customers could apply for a rebate retroactively,” Nixon said. “They can still apply for that until the May 31 deadline.”
Although most of the energy-incentive programs are continuing in June, customers who did renovations will no longer be able to seek rebates for work already accomplished under the old program.
“The slate is wiped clean June 1,” Nixon said.
Some of the new programs include a move toward LED lighting and surveys to help the business farmer save money on power by replacing things such as old compressors, pumps, fans and livestock waterers.
“One thing we did was add a new emphasis on agricultural customers,” Nixon said. “We're offering energy assessments that go with farming operations.”
According to Nixon, some discounts pay for as much as 75 percent of the cost of a project. The requirement to business owners is minimal because authorized contractors do a survey, quote the price, do the work and fill out the paperwork.
“It's such a good program. It was seamless for us – it was so easy,” Salezze said. “They [the contractor] did all the paperwork for rebates. In some cases, it [savings] was as small as 15 percent, and in other cases as high as 50 percent.”
Importantly, the reduction in power consumption continues year after year.
“We saw such a dramatic drop in our electric bill,” Salezze said. “In less than 24 months, we recouped our investment.”