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Civic center switches lights, sees savings

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Civic Center spent nearly $69,000 on its electricity usage in July 2012, but center officials look forward to better budgeted bills after replacing hundreds of lights with energy-efficient equivalents.

Jim Smith, assistant manager of the center, said savings so far have been remarkable since it replaced 1,441 T12 florescent tubes with light-emitting diode (LED) tubes.

"The savings on it is tremendous as far as energy consumption," Smith said. "It's awesome."

The Civic Center is one of 428 businesses that have received energy-efficient lighting rebates through Appalachian Power's Commercial and Industrial Prescriptive Programs, which are designed to promote the use of high-efficient lighting, among other goals.

Since the Civic Center joined the program when it began in April 2011, it has received more than $31,000 back in rebates from Apco, said Ed Outlaw, technical resource manager for Apco's GoodCents program.

The facility has saved more than 273,000 kilowatt-hours since it started the program. That's equal to the annual usage of nearly 24 homes, said Jim Fawcett, manager of energy efficiency and consumer programs for Apco.

The power company has distributed more than $1.2 million in rebates to businesses through the C&I Programs, Fawcett said.

More than 41.5 million kilowatt-hours -- equivalent to the annual usage of 3,611 homes -- have been saved by all businesses that participate in the C&I Programs, Fawcett said.

Commercial lighting accounts for more than 20 percent of total commercial building energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

"Businesses are much more savvy to this than residents because they look at everything on cost-to-payback," Fawcett said. "They're in the business to make money so if the Civic Center, for instance, can install these lights and save enough money in a year and a half to pay for the project, then they're putting that money in their pocket."

The center saw a total return on its investment in a little more than a year when it switched the 1,441 T12 fluorescent tubes with LED tubes, Smith said.

Of the $88,000 the Civic Center spent on the new lighting, Apco paid a rebate of $21,000, he said.

Smith said the rebate the Civic Center received after swapping more than 60 of its exit signs' fluorescent tubes with LED lights cost as much as the replacements.

"It's money we can reinvest into our capital improvement projects for in-house renovations," Smith said.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones announced last week plans to spend $45 million to $60 million in renovations to improve the Civic Center.

The renovations would include a new 20,000-square-foot ballroom, 5,000 square feet of additional meeting space, kitchen renovations, more restrooms and enhancements to the exterior's appearance. New lighting, sound systems and an energy-efficient, climate control heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system are also in the works.

Some of the new lighting and the energy-efficient HVAC system are being funded through the power company's rebate program.

Smith said the center is working on replacing even more lights in the concourse and throughout the facility.

In the breakout lobby and meeting rooms -- where energy-efficient lights have already been installed -- visitors notice the new brightness, he said.

"They see the change that we're brighter and they can go into the meeting rooms and they're not dim now," Smith said. "There's no comparison [to the prior lights] and the quality of light they're using for meetings now."

Fawcett said the power company offers the rebate program to its commercial customers so they can not only have energy-efficient buildings, but also so they can "be more competitive and it creates a more thriving business."

The less energy that businesses use, the better for the power company, too, he said.

"It certainly benefits us. These programs help to reduce the usage and capacity needs on our system so it helps us to avoid having to build new plans, which is a very expensive undertaking," Fawcett said. "It's controlling that capacity growth."

Fawcett admitted that the rebate is ultimately paid through the power company's customers' rates.

But it does pay off in the end, he said.

"It's a matter of looking at what the cheapest way is and the most efficient way is to light something," he said. "It's a matter of utilizing our resources to their most efficient extent."

Other businesses that have received rebates through Apco's energy-efficient lighting program are Toyota's plant in Buffalo, Center Hardware in St. Albans and Joe Holland Chevrolet, Fawcett said.

FirstEnergy also offers a utility rebate program to its West Virginia customers. The Business Lighting Incentive Program started Feb. 1, 2012, for Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers, said Sara Robarge, energy data specialist for FirstEnergy.

Robarge said FirstEnergy is offering the program in accordance with a Dec. 30, 2011, order issued by the state Public Service Commission to reduce both electricity usage and peak demand in the state.

Businesses receive 5 cents per kilowatt-hour they save, she said.

"FirstEnergy wants to encourage their customers to save money on energy so not only will they see the savings in a monthly bill, but we also offer the rebate for the cost," Robarge said.

For more information about Apco's Commercial and Industrial Prescriptive Programs, visit http://aeprebates.com/customers/commercial-programs or call 888-446-7719.

For more information about FirstEnergy's Lighting for Business Program, visit http://www.energysavewv-business.com/index.html or call 304-699-0056.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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