• LPEA wraps up Recharge Colorado “Main Street” lighting retrofit program


    Energy assessments, grants, rebates help small businesses save energy and dollars

    DURANGO, Colo. – The lights in some Durango businesses might be casting a brighter glow these days, but they’re using less energy, thanks to a partnership of La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) and the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO).

    By the end of October 2011 (the GEO’s designated close of its Recharge Colorado Main Street Energy Initiative (MSEI) program) LPEA will have assisted 30 businesses in retrofitting their lighting, awarding a total of $35,700 from the GEO and $27,400 in light fixture reduction rebates from LPEA/Tri-State Generation and Transmission. Local electricians contracted to perform the retrofits also benefitted with a valuable boost to their businesses during the sluggish construction period.

    “And all these lighting retrofits translate into an annual energy savings of approximately 400,000 kilowatt hours,” said Mark Schwantes, LPEA manager of corporate services. “That’s terrific.”

    The MSEI program was designed to encourage utilities and municipalities to develop an on-going process to assist small businesses with changing out their energy-guzzling lighting to more energy efficient products.

    In spring 2011, LPEA was one of 12 communities in the state, and the only electric utility, to receive a $7,500 grant from the GEO to perform energy assessments for “Main Street” businesses and then secure additional funding to help those qualifying businesses change out their lighting. According to LPEA officials, lighting accounts for approximately 25 to 35 percent of a typical business’ electricity usage.

    “We performed energy assessments for interested businesses and forecast the energy savings if a business changed out its lighting to more energy efficient bulbs,” said Ray Pierotti, LPEA project specialist. “And then if a business followed through with a retrofit, LPEA provided rebates on the bulbs and they received funds from the MSEI program.”

    “Initially, for purposes of the grant, we were supposed to only receive $12,500 from Recharge Colorado to divide among businesses in the BID, the Durango Business Improvement District,” added Sue Maxwell, LPEA project specialist. “But the other communities from throughout the state selected for the grant didn’t utilize all of their allotted GEO funding, so we added more businesses and requested those funds, enabling us to broaden our assistance in our community.”

    Among the initial businesses in the BID seizing the opportunity to retrofit their lighting were Carver Brewing Co., Steamworks Brewing Co., Durango Arts Center, Brown’s Shoe Fit, The Doubletree Hotel, FredrickZink Associates, Wagon Wheel Liquors, and the Olde JC Penney building at 8th and Main.

    “Retrofitting our fluorescent lighting and changing out all the lights in the brewpub area to dimmable LEDs has resulted in tremendous savings to Steamworks in just a few months,” said Kris Oyler, co-founder Steamworks Brewing Co. “We’re looking forward to LPEA’s report on our long-term energy savings, but we already know it was worth the investment.”

    As the program continued, and LPEA learned that the additional funds were available through Recharge Colorado, the cooperative added businesses to the initial list, one of which was Allen & Associates on E. Second Ave., Durango.

    “Between the rebate from Recharge Colorado, and the rebate on the bulbs from LPEA, doing the energy efficient lighting upgrade for my entire office – including labor, parts and bulbs – ended up being about one-quarter of what the full cost was originally,” said owner Bob Allen. “Thanks to all for the hard work on the grant and rebate programs.”

    While the MSEI program is essentially closed for 2011, LPEA continues to offer rebates for lighting retrofits for businesses throughout its service territory and is exploring additional financial and educational efficient lighting opportunities to share with the membership. Those interested can contact Ray Pierotti, rpierotti@lpea.coop or 970.382.7770 to learn more.

    LPEA, a Touchstone Energy Cooperative established in 1939, provides to its more than 30,000 members, with in excess of 42,000 meters, safe, reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost, while being environmentally responsible.

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