A New Administration and the Future of Incentives
Federal incentive programs have been limited lately, and
the Trump Administration’s energy policies might continue to
threaten their future viability. While the current political
climate might not bode well for certain government programs,
expect incentives from utilities to resist any volatility in energy efficiency decision making.
“Since most of the incentives for energy efficiency come
from utilities, they are rather insulated from politics,” says
Lips. “Public utilities commissions at the state level usu-
ally have oversight of the incentive programs administered
by utilities, and the utilities commissions are usually a safe
enough distance away from politics.”
Unfortunately, government programs at all levels do not
have that kind of protection. As you look at each level’s
options from local to federal, available incentives are harder to
find – and are now nonexistent at the federal level.
“Generally speaking, state governments tend to operate
loan programs,” says Lips. “The federal government had a
tax deduction for energy-efficient commercial buildings for
a number of years, but it expired at the end of 2016. With its
expiration, there are no current incentives at the federal level.”
The federal incentive that Lips refers to – the 179D
Commercial Buildings Energy Efficiency Tax Deduction, part
of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 – had been in place since
2006 but ended last December, and its expiration has left
a considerable void. Federal incentives are nonexistent for
lighting upgrades and are becoming harder to find for other
renewable energy initiatives.
With federal departments like the Department of Energy,
the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business
Administration no longer providing options for financial
assistance, finding programs that make upgrading lighting –
or any other building system – more affordable at a federal
level is more or less a fruitless endeavor at this point.
State and Local
If federal options continue to be limited, you can look
toward state and local governments for incentives and
rebates. While you are more at the mercy of your state legislature or city council, some boast an impressive number of
options to make your lighting upgrade viable.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures
(NCSL), 32 states have implemented rebate, loan or tax incen-
tive programs for energy-efficient lighting upgrades and use
in commercial or institutional facilities. For most of these
Database of State Incentives for
Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE)
One of the most robust sources of incentives and rebates is DSIRE. Operated by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State Univer- sity and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy,
DSIRE hosts information on incentives and policies that promote
renewable energy and energy efficiency in the U.S. The data-
base includes programs and initiatives specifically for lighting
upgrades, while also presenting information on all other types of
incentives for sustainable
The database allows you
to search for programs
based on location by simply
providing your zip code.
Then you are able to narrow
your search to accommodate
lighting upgrades for the
appropriate building type.
Furthermore, you can sort
through policy and incentive types, allowing the prioritization of
certain programs that fit best with your goals. Whether you are
looking for a grant, loan, tax credit or exemption, rebate or any
other particular kind of incentive, DSIRE provides filters to stream-
line the search process.
In addition to compiling government-funded incentives, DSIRE
includes relevant programs for investor-owned utilities. However,
this only applies to larger utilities companies. “Because there are
thousands of electric cooperatives and municipal utilities in the
U.S., DSIRE’s scope is generally limited to those with more than
30,000 customers,” according to its website. If your utility is small
and is not under the purview of DSIRE, contact it directly to learn
about any possible incentives.
While mainly a database, DSIRE offers custom research and
analysis from its energy policy experts. For example, its Pending
Legislative and Regulatory Action Analysis allows you to look at the
forecast for energy policies and initiatives by tracking and reviewing
pending legislative and regulatory changes that might affect your
lighting upgrade project. Moreover, simply subscribing to DSIRE’s
news feed will provide you with important program updates.
Find the database and learn more about DSIRE’s services as