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Operators Can Find Some Utility-Bill Relief

Small-business rebates are available, but money is limitedCHICAGO, Ill. — While the price of natural gas has remained relatively low compared to last year, a cold February in many parts of the United States has coin laundries seeking any type of relief.There are still utility-based rebates and credits, as well as related assistance, available for operators willing to search for them. While these types of programs vary from state to state, a host of different programs are available.Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) recently offered small-business owners a 20-percent bill credit for conservation despite increased usage during the recent chill. In late 2006, PG&E introduced an enhanced conservation plan — 10/20 Plus Winter Gas Savings Program — to give its customers, including small businesses, a bill credit of up to 20 percent for simply reducing natural gas usage during their January and February billing cycles. For every 1 percent decrease in usage, businesses received a 1 percent credit, up to 9 percent. When the program was designed, PG&E created a contingency for colder or warmer-than-normal weather.Here are some other programs that may be of interest to operators:

  • All electric customers of PG&E, Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) are eligible to apply for solar-related rebates. A program requires the states major publicly owned electric utilities to adopt, implement and finance a solar initiative program by January 2008.
  • In Texas, businesses can take advantage of the Standard Offer Program. Its goal is to meet 10 percent of the annual growth in power demand through conservation projects. This effort is funded by all power customers, who have a small amount of money taken from their monthly bills. This money is then used as rebates to entice customers to spend on conservation projects. Small businesses can hire contractors to do projects ranging from installing new energy-efficient windows to high-efficiency air conditioning. The local company that owns the power lines and poles then agrees to pay the contractor a price established by the Public Utility Commission for the energy-saving work. The contractor either discounts the work by that figure, or the business receives the amount in a rebate.
  • Florida Power & Light provides rebates, tips on how to cut down on energy use and free energy surveys of your business.
  • Vectren Energy Delivery in Indiana has launched a new program to help its customers lower their natural gas bills. Small businesses can take advantage of rebates on appliances as well as online tools to perform energy audits and bill analysis to assist in lowering natural gas bills. The energy audit uses specific details of your business in order to find ways to cut costs.

Keep in mind that in most cases, the rebate money goes fast. First-come, first-serve policies are often in effect.

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