If someone offered free advice and equipment to help you use less of his product, would you say it’s too good to be true? A lot of people do. That’s a challenge as Chicagoland’s electric and natural-gas utilities try to promote energy-saving incentives to their customers.
“One of the toughest things to do is give away free money,” says Scott Schnurr, chief executive officer of DRF Trusted Property Solutions in Plainfield, IL, a contractor participating in the incentives program. “People don’t believe they’ll get a rebate. They think we’re lying to them. There’s a lot of fear. We hear people say, ‘I’m a board president. What if this doesn’t work? I have to live here.’”
Get With the Plan
In 2008, the Illinois Legislature passed a law requiring the state’s electric companies to include on their bills a separate line item for an energy-efficiency trust fund. Customers pay into it for each kilowatt hour they consume. The utilities must use the money in the trust fund to educate consumers, reduce energy consumption, and increase efficiency.
Customers can tap the trust fund for free or discounted electrical improvements. In Chicagoland, ComEd (a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation) collects the money and encourages customers to use it.
Julie Hollensbe, ComEd’s manager of energy efficient programs, says ComEd’s version of the program—called SmartIdeas—has averaged about 40,000 electricity customers a year. Participants include multi-family condominium and cooperative buildings and communities, as well as rental apartment buildings, single-family homes, and businesses.