PEERS program stimulates retrofits of lighting systems
Manufacturing has yet to reap many benefits from the $780 billion stimulus package, but an industry economist has uncovered a program that delivers both financial rewards and environmental benefits for the sector.
"As it evolved thus far, the stimulus cash has ended up in a wide variety of programs, many administered by the states that help them deal with budget shortfalls. The impact has essentially preserved jobs instead of creating new private sector work," said Dr. Chris Kuehl, economic analyst for the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA).
"One initiative that bypasses this issue, and others that have not allowed quick and effective disbursement of the money, is the Program for Energy Efficiency through Responsible Stimulus (PEERS)," said Kuehl. "Its aim is simple: Get the government to direct $16 billion of the $780 billion to a program that supports energy efficiency retrofits.
"The secret to the plan is that every state has programs in place that could carry out the assignment," he continued. "These usually are utilities or those connected to some power provider. They already have the ability to go into a facility to conduct energy audits that allow a company to find ways to save money on its energy usage."
However, companies that received the audit often lacked the funds to make the changes, according to Kuehl.
"The idea behind PEERS, designed by the National Association of Lighting Management Companies (NALMCO), is to direct the stimulus money to help underwrite the costs of these retrofits," said Kuehl. "This leads to the proverbial win-win; companies save money by reducing energy costs, reduce their contributions to emissions and creates jobs for firms that do retrofit work and provide ongoing maintenance.
"The fact that existing agencies and organizations are in place to perform this work makes this a far more‘shovel ready’ program than many others."
Gerald Shankel, FMA president and CEO, added this is the type of grass roots effort that should be supported by manufacturers to access portions of this stimulus money.
"Our members certainly recognize they can save money by installing more energy efficient equipment," Shankel said. "In fact, we offer members an energy audit program through Affiliated Power Purchasers International that helps them identify potential cost savings.
"Yet, it is more than challenging to invest in these technologies in the face of today’s many economic pressures," he added. "The availability of government incentives to pursue this goal changes the dynamics in a very positive way. We applaud NALMCO for taking the lead in this initiative."