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Norwich Public Utilities boosts energy efficiency rebates to entice building owners

Norwich — When Norwich businesses shut down or curtailed operations in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, many of them also stopped plans for energy efficiency upgrades, and residents also cut back on spending.

Norwich Public Utilities wants businesses and residents again to consider investing in efficient heating and cooling units, electric or hybrid vehicles and charging stations and lighting upgrades.

NPU will boost rebates paid to commercial and residential customers for several energy efficiency programs, in some cases covering nearly the entire cost of the upgrade, said Jeff Brining, NPU customer service division manager.

For small commercial and industrial facilities that undergo lighting upgrades, NPU rebates will jump from 50% to 75%, including labor and materials. For mid-sized and large companies, the rebate will jump from 25% to 50%.

For customers who purchase combination cooling and heating units through the Cooling and Heating Incentive Pilot Program, or CHIPP, the rebate will double based on the unit size and will increase from $1,500 to $2,000 for controls.

The rebate for insulation will increase from $1 to $1.50 per square foot.

“The value of insulation cannot be understated, specifically attic insulation,” Brining said. “It’s the single most cost-effective measure you can take.”

NPU also encourages customers to consider electric or hybrid-fueled vehicles. The rebate for new plug-in hybrid vehicles doubled to $1,000, and for new electric vehicles increased from $1,000 to $1,500. For used vehicles 2019 or later, the rebate doubled to $500 for hybrid, and to $1,000 for electric vehicles.

Residential charging stations, which typically take six to eight hours for a full charge and require 220-volt service, qualify for a $1,000 rebate, also doubled. The rebate for a commercial charging station will triple to $3,000. Commercial units open to the public will qualify for a $4,000 rebate.

Brining said NPU is encouraging public electric vehicle charging stations in response to growing need. NPU has a public charging station at its customer service center at 173 N. Main St.

“We encourage people to come down, and they can charge free of charge," Brining said. "We’re embracing the technology. The ability to charge is the key.”

He said the increased rebates “pretty much cover the cost” of residential and mid-level chargers.

Brining said the pandemic stalled energy efficiency projects in the city, leaving the program with $1.25 million on June 30. NPU anticipates collecting another $1 million this fiscal year, about $750,000 from the 0.26 cents per kilowatt hour efficiency fee in customers' bills, and $250,000 from outside grants.

Regan Miner, executive director of the Norwich Historical Society, strongly endorsed the NPU programs. NPU has donated funds to the historical society through the Neighborhood Assistance Act and provided efficiency rebates to upgrade the East District Schoolhouse and the Dr. Daniel Lathrop Schoolhouse, now the Norwich Heritage and Regional Visitors Center.

“NPU has been a fantastic community partner,” she said.

This past year, the historical society worked with the Society of the Founders of Norwich to use the CHIPP program to upgrade heating and cooling in the 1772 Joseph Carpenter Silversmith Shop at 71 E. Town St., next door to the visitors’ center. The shop has exhibits and is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

“We couldn’t be happier with the result,” Miner said. “We received a quality product with significant cost savings. As a nonprofit, that’s very important to us.”

The historical society and Founders group might consider taking advantage of the increased rebates to upgrade to the 1763 David Greenleaf House at 2 Town St., next door to the historic Leffingwell House Museum.

“There’s no shortage of projects,” Miner said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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