Rebate capture: What does a good job look like? When is “free” not free?

Are you paying for Rebate Administration?  If “yes”, why?

Aren’t all the “smart guys” getting free rebate collection as part of their equipment purchase and installation – particularly for lighting?  Aren’t all the “top vendors” providing rebate collection at no or minor cost?  Aren’t the vendor’s experts at capturing incentives?   Can’t anyone just “push paper”?

It seems like an easy choice right?  Why pay for something you can otherwise get for free or at a huge discount?

The answer is not quite so simple and the really smart guys ask their vendors a few more questions:

  • Do you file for all my rebates – custom as well as prescriptive?
  • How many people do you have on staff filing rebates and how many rebates are they filing for in addition to mine?  Is capturing rebates their only job responsibility?  How long have they been on staff?
  • How long has your company been capturing incentives?  How many per year?
  • How do you manage the timing issues involved with utility prefile requirements?
  • How do you manage the inevitable conflicts between your preferred installation schedule and preapproval timing?
  • Does your staff have time to personally expedite preapprovals and rebate checks from the utilities?
  • Who schedules pre and post inspections?
  • Can you provide a site by site rebate estimate up front so we, the customer, can measure the success of the rebate effort?
  • What do you do about capturing for other energy conservation measures which I am pursuing and you’re not providing?
  • What kind of reporting do you provide and on what schedule so I can track your progress against plan?

You see, the really smart guys know nothing is free.  The really smart guys employ a detailed process of evaluating what’s actually captured against an equally detailed estimate of rebate opportunity which had been made in advance.  The smart guys know they need to understand what a good job looks like or they’ll receive whatever their vendor can capture – more or less “what’s good enough”.   And the really smart guys know “good enough” is not good enough.

Capturing rebates is NOT just pushing paper.  There are easily more than four hundred, different incentive programs of consequence.  Each program is different enough and yet similar enough to make knowing the details important.   A truly successful rebate capture effort requires organization, systems, and dedicated personnel – and that’s just for the standard stuff.

The smart guys also know if the technology is emerging, like LED lighting, you really need to pay attention to the answers to the above questions because up to three quarters of eligible rebates are going to require custom applications, an effort vendors may not be well equipped or willing to handle.

So the really smart guys ask a lot of questions.  They figure out in advance what a good job looks like.  And then they pay accordingly so they can be confident they are getting the best rebate outcomes, net of any fees involved in getting them.

Net-net, lack of dedication and expertise means fewer incentives captured for the customer, even if the capture cost is free.

So, how about you?  Would you rather get 100% of one incentive or 80% of two?  How many rebates will your vendor have to miss before “free” starts to look not so free?

Still want to get rebate capture from your contractor?  And, will you be asking your dentist to file your taxes, too?


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