Standing in front of a refrigerator filled with Vitamin Water and sodas, Chevron owner Tony Singh points to new LED lights while talking about the eventual savings on his utility bill.
Singh received a $16,200 no-interest loan from the Lodi Electric Utility to make lighting upgrades throughout his entire station on Kettleman Lane. The cost of the loan will be added to his utility bills, which he will repay over the next two years.
"I'm hoping that whatever the payments are will be offset by the savings," Singh said.
In January, the utility started a new program where businesses can receive up to $50,000 for energy conservation projects. In May, city staff asked the Lodi City Council for more funding for the program, because all of the $250,000 originally available was allocated.
The council approved another $150,000, and of that, only $45,000 remains, said Rob Lechner, manager of customer service and programs.
The money comes out of the state-mandated public benefits fund, which is money utilities are required to set aside to increase energy conservation and renewable energy technologies, and also to provide services for low-income electricity customers.
The $400,000 in loan funds will be available to other customers as the current participants pay it back during the next two years.
"It's like a boomerang. The money goes out and comes back in," Lechner said. "As we start to see the money come back in, we can send it out again."
So far, five projects have been completed, including three lighting retrofits, an air conditioning retrofit at Wine and Roses and a new high-efficiency plastic molding machine at Quashnick Tool Corporation. The five projects will save 500,000 kilowatt hours.
"The concept is just another creative way to encourage energy conservation. These are certainly some of the largest users in town, and they are organizations that employ a lot of people, so whatever we can do to make them more solid is good," Lechner said.
Five other businesses also have drafted plans, and all of them are lighting projects. As the program progresses, Lechner hopes businesses will find even more creative ways to reduce energy, like replacing pumps and motors with more energy-efficient equipment.
"Lighting projects are low-hanging fruit. In time, businesses will get to the next phase and hopefully do something a little more meaty," he said.
Businesses apply for the loan and then hire a contractor to complete the work. Once the project is finished, Lechner inspects the work before issuing the loan check.
Qualifying businesses must be in good standing with the city of Lodi for the past 18 months and not have any late payments, Lechner said.
Besides adding more money to the program, the city has also opened it up to all of the bigger commercial and industrial businesses in town. The utility originally made the program available to only one class of customers because they wanted to make sure the number of possible customers was manageable, Lechner said.
Customers can combine the loan with a utility rebate offered from the city's public benefits fund. The utility offers the rebates to any business that does energy-efficient upgrades that reduce the number of kilowatt hours the business uses. The rebates are 15 cents a kilowatt hour, up to 50 percent of the project cost or $7,500.
Singh said he was able to do the lighting project because of the loan and the rebate. He also owns a Chevron off Collier Road in San Joaquin County and said Pacific Gas and Electric Company has a similar program, but it is on a smaller scale.
He expects to see a 20 to 25 percent reduction in his utility costs.
"It's a savings. Utilities are so high. My average bill is $4,500 to $5,000 ... In this struggling economy, every penny saved is a penny earned," Singh said.
For more information on the project, contact Rob Lechner at 333-6815 or by email at email@example.com.