Las Vegas Retailers Want Popular Energy Efficiency Programs Back

A Congresswoman representing Southern Nevada, the Retail Association of Nevada and several retail businesses spoke up this week in support of NV Energy’s request that the Nevada Public Utilities Commission consider reinstating two popular and successful energy efficiency programs that the commission voted to eliminate on Dec. 22, 2015. 

The two programs that were cut are the Residential Lighting program, which lowers the cost of LED lamps sold in retail stores, and the Pool Pumps program that provides incentives for installation of high efficiency pool pumps. NV Energy petitioned the commission on Friday, Jan. 8, to reverse its decision. Nevadans for Clean, Affordable, Reliable Energy (NCARE), of which the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) is a member, is supporting the utility’s request in formal comment.

The Retail Association of Nevada submitted a formal letter to the PUCN and noted, “The Retail Association is concerned about the elimination of the residential pool pumps program and the residential lighting program…Residents in southern Nevada should continue to be encouraged to replace old, inefficient pool pumps and lighting with new, energy saving products.” 

“The Residential Lighting program is critical for stimulating the purchase of energy-efficient LED light bulbs, and it has proven to be very cost-effective and popular,” said Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada’s District One.  “Utility program incentives have played and should continue to play an important role in helping my constituents in southern Nevada invest in new LED technology.”

In a filing with the PUCN last July, NV Energy said participation in the residential lighting program and energy savings in southern Nevada were three times the utility’s initial projections and prompted the company to add more money to the program mid-year. NV Energy had proposed to further ramp up its residential LED lighting program during 2016-18 but instead it was eliminated by the PUCN at the December meeting.

“When we stop rebates, sales will plummet.  It really does affect market adoption and consumer awareness,” said Kourtney Preston, director of utility programs at FEIT Electric, a major manufacturer of LED light bulbs for the residential market.   She noted that old technology halogen bulbs are still 60% cheaper on store shelves than LEDs.  Without rebates to help bridge the cost difference, many people won’t buy the newer, more efficient technology, she said.

Several LED manufacturers serving the southern Nevada market said aggregate LED sales were down at big retailers in Las Vegas by 17% and 31% respectively in the first month since the rebate was discontinued Dec. 31.

“LED technology not only helps customers save money over time but also helps save the environment, so we’re proponents of most measures that encourage their use,” said Francisco Uribe, director of government relations in Nevada for Home Depot.

“If NV Energy’s incentive for purchasing energy efficiency pool pumps goes away, so will our ability to continue selling high efficiency pool pumps,” said Howard Tubin, owner of Kats Pool Service in Las Vegas.  “It’s a big mistake.”

A high-level executive at a large retailer of pool pumps in southern Nevada who declined to be identified said the loss of the utility program incentives would be a $3-$4 million hit to pool pump sales this year.

“The PUCN’s decision to cut these two programs was not based on the evidence presented in the case. No party in the case proposed eliminating these programs or argued that they are ineffective,” said Howard Geller, executive director of SWEEP, which advances energy efficiency in the Southwest.   Geller urged the PUC to allow the programs to continue in 2016 as NV Energy has requested.

The PUCN is expected to respond to NV Energy’s petition for reconsideration in February.