2020's in the Rearview Mirror, Here's What Lies Ahead for 2021!

January 6, 2021
hand on rearview mirror

Needless to say, 2020 was a very unique year—and not just for lighting and controls incentives. The pandemic impacted utility program processes as well as dollars with a record number of bonus programs offered. While we are more than ready to leave 2020 behind us and look ahead, this time of year is similar to where we've been in the past with a mixed bag of programs being reduced, remaining the same or awaiting announcement in 2021. 

2020 in review

With the pandemic hitting businessess' pocketbooks hard, we saw budgets for energy efficiency measures reduced for many, including retailers. Utilities took notice. In response many of the IOUs (investor-owned utilties) offered very lucrative bonuses to help bridge the gap in capital budgets. Xcel Energy, Eversource (MA, CT and NH), Energy Trust of Oregon, Consumers Energy (MI), DET (MI), and IPL (IN) are just a handful of the utility programs that offered outstanding bonuses in 2020. 

These bonuses were very effective in boosting projects, especially in Oregon, Xcel Energy (CO and MN) and Eversource territories where they were most lucrative.

COVID brought some challenges to the processing of incentives as well, specifically with pre- and post-project inspections. Most utilities had to shift to virtual inspections or collecting pre- and post-photos in lieu of in-person inspections. For EMC customers, this wasn’t a problem as we expertly provide many pre- and post-photos for our projects already. I anticipate some programs will continue to utilize this practice to eliminate the need for in-person inspections post pandemic.

2021 here we come

This is the time of year when we don’t yet have the full view of next year’s program offerings. Some already published their 2021 programs and others have not. What we DO know:

  • Energy Trust of Oregon will be reducing their LED lighting incentives by 30-40 percent. Their program hasn’t been released, however they told us that their budget is limited in the new year and they need to spread out the funding, hence the reduction in specific incentives.
  • ComEd remains strong with their lighting program at $.50/watt saved for retrofit projects. They will maintain their lighting controls bonus with measurement and verification requirements that I anticipate we will take advantage of for many customers as we roll out projects in the new year.
  • Texas programs seem to remain the same with no major changes. The largest, Oncor and CenterPoint, remain strong.
  • Eversource will continue with their lucrative incentives in 2021 with no major anticipated changes. However, 2022 will be the year we anticipate lighting incentives will be significantly reduced, so it’s vital to take advantage of programs in the MA, CT and NH markets in 2021.
  • Maryland programs such as BG&E, Pepco and Delmarva also remain strong and steady in 2021. Like Eversource, the year that we may see significant reductions to lighting is 2022.

There are many programs officially kicking off in mid-late January. Our expert Incentives Team’s calendar is filled with program kick-off webinars to glean the details of the new year’s programs. We anxiously await seeing if there will be more significant changes.

Regardless of what happens, incentives will continue to be a driving force in implementing energy efficiency projects of all kinds. EMC’s Incentives Team is very connected and close to our utility partners to ensure our customers maximize these programs. In addition, we will continue to support our customers in prioritizing their projects based on utility rates and incentive dollars available.

Reach out to your EMC sales representative to have your project list prioritized as we enter 2021.

Happy New Year to all!


Jolene Fenn is Energy Management Collaborative's Manager of Customer Accounts and Incentives. In this role she utilizes her knowledge of incentive programs nationwide to expedite the application process and secure maximum incentive dollars for EMC customers.