Express Program helps small businesses save money on energy costs

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has promised to resolve issues surrounding AEP’s rate increases for small business customers, but in the meantime companies can take advantage of a program designed to reduce energy usage and lower energy costs.

The Express Program is open to all non-residential customers in AEP Ohio’s service territory that use 200,000 kilowatt hours or less annually. Participating small businesses receive a free facility assessment to identify potential energy-saving opportunities, as well as a proposal that includes descriptions of the necessary equipment and labor, expected savings, project costs, and the incentive amount to subsidize costs.

To date, there are 90-plus contractors registered with AEP Ohio to install energy-saving equipment, says its spokeswoman Shelly Haugh.

Equipment eligible for replacement includes indoor and outdoor lighting, occupancy sensors, and refrigeration controls. In July, the production of T12 light bulbs (long, skinny tubes about 1.5 inches in diameter) will cease.

Replacing those bulbs with T8 bulbs is a fairly easy task that reduces energy usage by 30 to 40 percent per fixture, says Express Program Manager Al Kohler. Express Program cost savings vary depending on equipment, building construction, customer operation, age of existing equipment, location, and other factors specific to each business.

However, he says the experience Ketti Beard, owner of Enchanting Hair and Nail salon in Reynoldsburg, had with the program is typical. T8 lamps and LED exit signs were installed in her 1,200-square-foot salon (which is 22 years old) and two unnecessary T12 fixtures were removed.

Beard paid $50.47 and the Express Program picked up the $849.73 balance of the project’s cost. Program incentives are paid directly to the contractor who then bills the participating business for their share. A post-installation inspection may be conducted to assure quality and verify energy savings.

About 350 energy-saving projects have been completed since The Express Program launched in January 2011 and about 150 more are in progress, Haugh says.

To learn more about the Express Program, business owners should call 1-877-607-0739 or email gridSMARTOhioExpress@kema.com.