Midwest Mechanical - An HVAC Blog

Unraveling the Energy Rebate Process for Your Chicago Commercial Building

Published: March 12, 2018

Written by Midwest Mech

As a commercial building owner, you have more than enough on your plate without wading neck-deep into constantly-changing regulations and procedures that don’t impact your life or business. However, in the case of Chicago’s available energy rebates for commercial buildings, it’s definitely worth investigating and taking action where it makes sense.

Unraveling the Energy Rebate Process for your Chicago Commercial Building

This can be overwhelming and confusing, but we want to let you know you’re not alone in this effort. At Midwest Mechanical, we’re constantly reviewing the latest laws and best practices as outlined by the authorities, to make sure our customers are getting the most value from these programs.

Here is a quick primer to hopefully help take some of the confusion and overwhelm out of the energy rebate discussion and get you to the point where you can take advantage of what Chicago has to offer in this regard.

It’s smart to participate, but it’s not mandatory (yet…)

In Chicago, the available energy incentives and rebates are offered through whichever utility provider you use, based on where you are in the city. These are outlined by state mandate. As of November, 2017, commercial buildings over 50,000 square feet are being scored on energy efficiency by the city and are required to post their score prominently in the building and make potential buyers or tenants aware of the score.

That being said, Chicago’s energy programs are not yet mandatory. Rather, the available rebates and grants are intended to incentivize voluntary participation in reaching the city’s lofty goal of reducing the city’s emissions 80 percent by 2050.

You’re already paying for these incentives

According to state law, a small portion of every customer’s bill — both commercial and residential — goes into a fund that swells to well over $200 million annually. The utility provider collects these contributions and uses them to fund various incentives programs that are designed to help utility companies meet required usage and peak load reductions outlined in 2017 Future Energy Jobs Act.

Indirectly, we’re all paying for failing to grab these incentives, too. According to a recent article in the Energy News Network, “The city estimates that $3 billion a year is spent on building energy and that as much as 20 percent of that energy is wasted. The cost to residents and businesses is in the millions, according to city energy benchmarking report from last year.”

Why investing in energy efficiency makes good business sense

As a commercial building owner or facility manager, you're contributing a lot to these programs. On average, Chicago’s commercial buildings account for more than 50 percent of the city’s energy use, so, even with the funding limited to a fraction of a percent of your bill, many building owners send tens of thousands of dollars into the incentives fund each year.

So, it just makes good business sense to actively conserve energy where possible, and to invest in energy efficiency. Likewise, it makes sense to take full advantage of the available rebates and incentives so you can maximize your return on these investments.

With over $350 million available to fund energy savings, electric and natural gas providers are actively seeking commercial building owners willing to invest in projects that will significantly impact their facility’s annual energy usage. While the utility’s aim is to reach its state mandated reduction goals, these investments also reduce the building owner’s operating costs. (Energy Manager Today)

And, those savings aren’t insignificant. Retrofit Chicago announced that, according to the most recent estimates, “as of fall 2017, the average (commercial building energy) savings are approximately 14.5%, which equates to over $10 million in savings per year.” With approximately 150 buildings currently participating in the Retrofit Chicago program, that averages out to over $66,000 saved per building each year.

Additionally, all of us who live and work in and around Chicago benefit from the effects of lower peak loads (meaning less danger of brownouts or full outages) and, in the long run, less harm is done to the environment due to reduced energy demands.

Why look to Midwest Mechanical when it comes to energy incentives?

While the current incentive and rebate programs are not new, they are changing regularly. In fact, the amount of available funds has risen dramatically as of January 2018, partly due to the impact of the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act.  

Additionally, in recent years, more building owners have been taking advantage of the programs and requirements have become more strict. As a result, utility companies have become justifiably picky about who qualifies to receive incentive funds and how much they will receive.

In fact, a potential incentive has become part of the planning and development strategies surrounding Chicago’s commercial buildings, as well as contractor agreements for retrofitting projects, and even the building sales process.

The experts at Midwest Mechanical:

  • Work hard to identify and research every potential energy incentive or rebate our current and potential clients qualify for.
  • Fill out most of the pre-application paperwork that the client will need to submit to their utility provider regarding any proposed project.
  • Help them confirm they will be able to obtain the incentive when the project is done, and ensure an error in the paperwork doesn’t stand in the way.
  • When a project is complete, we coordinate the inspection and analysis required by the utility company.
  • And, we help with any final paperwork necessary to ensure the client receives their incentive payment.

Most of our competitors don’t go to that extent when it comes to energy incentives, but we consider it integral to serving both our clients and our city.

After all, Midwest Mechanical’s energy engineers and technicians all live and work right here in Chicago. We want to see the city reach and exceed its goals for energy efficiency now and in the future, because we want a cleaner, more vibrant Chicago to pass on to our kids and grandkids, just like you do.

If there’s anything we can do to help guide you through the overwhelming and confusing energy incentives programs or to help you determine if you qualify, contact us today.

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