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Utility incentives designed to aid contractors

John Seelmeyer

Power companies in Nevada are looking for ways to reduce the amount of expensive electricity they need to purchase on the wholesale markets.

Contractors are looking for ways to close deals.

A month-old program launched by Sierra Pacific Power in northern Nevada and Nevada Power in the Las Vegas area seeks to harness the business interests of contractors to help solve the challenge of utilities.

“We designed it to be driven by the contractors,” said John Hargrove, project manager for energy efficiency and conservation at Sierra Pacific Power.

Here’s how it works: The Sure Bet program launched by the utilities offers cash incentives to small and medium-sized businesses that implement cost-effective energy efficiency programs.

A company that installs a ceilingmounted occupancy sensor that automatically turns off lights when a room is vacant, for instance, would qualify for a $20 incentive.

Replacing magnetic-ballast lighting fixtures with electronic-ballast fixtures would qualify for anywhere from $2 to $7.50 a fixture.

Similar incentives are available for the installation of energy-efficient air conditioning units and for the purchase of new electric motors.

(Tables showing all the incentives are available at http://www.nevadasurebet.com) The Sure Bet effort isn’t limited to smaller projects, Hargrove said.

Big work improvements in building envelopes, for example, or solar systems that replace electric water heating are eligible for custom incentives.

Jobs that would qualify for custom incentives generally will be reviewed by KEMA-Xenergy, a consultant to the utility company, before work begins to determine the amount of the incentive payment.

Sierra Pacific Power hopes that the incentives will help contractors convince potential customers to move ahead with energy-saving projects.

“We see this as a sales tool for contractors,” Hargrove said.

“We’re trying to help the contractors by giving them the tools and then getting out of their way.”

The Sure Bet program is based, too, on a realization that the utility company doesn’t have sufficient resources on its own to undertake all the energy-conservation projects in the region, Hargrove said.

The program will run through the end of this year, or until the $200,000 allocated for incentive payments in northern Nevada runs out.

Because the funds are limited, Hargrove said the utility urges contractors to pre-qualify their projects and establish their place in line.

For more information about the program: The toll-free number is (800) 342-6335.

The e-mail address is NevadaSureBet@kema-xenergy.com.