Watch for expiring bonuses and tax credits this month
Many of us are aware that the federal tax credit for residential customers expire after this year, but there are also Energy Trust promotions that will change or expire after December 31, 2010.
Federal tax credit
The federal tax credit, which is 30 percent of eligible residential energy improvement projects, up to $1,500, is scheduled to end December 31, 2010. Projects must be installed by that date, although homeowners have until they file their 2010 tax returns to take advantage of the credit. Please refer to the ENERGY STAR® website for information about the tax credits
Energy Trust bonuses
Energy Trust currently offers bonuses above our standard incentives, and the following change or expire at the end of the year:
- The limited time $150 Home Performance with ENERGY STAR bonus applies only to projects completed before December 31, 2010.
- The T12 to T8 limited-time bonus was set to expire December 31, 2010, but has been extended. The bonus will now run through November 1, 2011. To avoid year-end processing delays, current projects should still be submitted before December 15, 2010, if possible.
All expiring bonuses have been outlined in the updates section of Insider.
If you are unsure of the expiration date for any bonus, or for incentives attached to any Energy Trust project, please check with us. We can help clarify due dates and requirements so projects receive the correct incentives.
Roundtables draw large audiences and good discussions
Trade allies attended the recent roundtable sessions in Portland, Bend and Grants Pass in large numbers, and expressed a need for ongoing customer leads from Energy Trust. Nearly 100 trade allies attended the residential roundtable on November 30 in Portland, and used the opportunity to express appreciation for Energy Trust’s efforts and concern with the ongoing market downturn and the upcoming sunset of federal energy tax credits.
Many trade allies shared the sentiment that losing the federal tax credits, which apply to many of the same weatherization and HVAC measures covered by Energy Trust incentives, will pose problems in 2011. Trade allies stated that, right now, business is moving quickly for two key reasons: the fall heating season always brings an uptick in business as customers turn their attention to home heating and comfort, and people are trying to finish projects in time to qualify for the expiring tax credits. Some trade allies expressed concern that a large portion of their project pipeline may diminish in January.
Energy Trust incentives will certainly continue to help. The proposed direct payment of incentives to top-tier trade allies will drive some projects forward, and the group expressed interest in participating. Moving ductless heat pumps from pilot status to the list of permanent measures will also help.
Trade allies also discussed the rollout of the Energy Performance Score for existing homes. While many aspects of the EPS pilot are still undecided, Home Performance trade allies are concerned that EPS scoring for existing homes will eliminate the need for pressure diagnostics, an important part of what they offer. Energy Trust will hold a separate meeting to discuss details in full before the EPS for existing homes pilot is launched.
Commercial trade allies received a training session on lighting code updates, provided by Michael Lane from the Lighting Design Labs in Seattle. They also heard more about upcoming New Buildings program enhancements designed to educate customers, help them move beyond code and work toward deeper savings. As with the residential trade allies, commercial trade allies expressed concern about tax credit changes, but also expressed confidence in Energy Trust’s operations and maintenance measures and their own project pipelines.
As with previous commercial sessions, lighting trade allies showed an interest in more LED solutions. Energy Trust staff will continue to watch new LED products and keep trade allies informed of improvements in the technology and cost.
New opportunities, potential enhancements for 2011
Representatives from Umpqua Bank also attended the sessions, and provided encouraging new information about the updated GreenStreet Lending financing option. Umpqua Bank is expanding into Washington, California and parts of Nevada, and has reworked its energy-efficiency loans to better assist contractors, business owners and homeowners. The loans carry no closing costs or early payment penalties, and the interest rates are more attractive than in the past. They can also cover projects outside the energy-efficiency field, provided 51 percent of the loan goes toward energy-efficient projects. The new loan products may help customers overcome one of the biggest barriers to making energy improvements: upfront cost.
Attendees in all sessions commented on the value of the Existing Homes online trade ally rating system. Most understood the need to differentiate trade allies on the Energy Trust website, but smaller contractors, especially outside the Portland metro area, are still concerned that project submission requirements are a barrier. One suggestion was to separate the ratings into their components – customer service, project submissions and quality control – with a rating for each. That technique is under consideration for 2011.
The main take away from the fourth quarter roundtables is that 2011 changes pose many challenges and opportunities for all of us. Energy Trust remains committed to improving communications and involvement with our trade allies.
The roundtable notes are posted with each meeting agenda online. For more information about upcoming meetings, training or the Trade Ally Network, contact Tom Beverly, Trade Ally Network manager, at 503.445.7637.
Energy Trust incentive forms undergoing improvements—trade ally input needed
Energy Trust is in the midst of improving our incentive forms to gather the most relevant information, solve potential confusion and be a better resource for trade allies and customers.
Forms that have the most potential for delays, complaints and other pitfalls are the top priority for review and enhancement. Where possible, we will combine forms and eliminate duplicate fields. We have already started to review a few forms and will continue throughout 2011. We may ask for customer and trade ally feedback at times, and welcome your thoughts.
We are confident that some forms can be moved online, making it easier for customers to apply for incentives without all the paper. The residential HVAC incentive form and the appliance incentive forms are great examples, and have successfully reduced processing time, especially for appliance incentives.
We need your help to shape some of the decisions. If there are particular forms that cause ongoing problems for you, or there are fields within forms that cause slowdowns, please tell us.
Though we strive to collaborate on forms with other organizations (such as state or federal tax credit forms, or on applications used by utilities outside Energy Trust service territory), we cannot guarantee feedback will be considered or incorporated on forms other than Energy Trust’s forms.
Please send any comments or suggestions about forms to Tom Beverly, Trade Ally Network manager.