Public utility customers who tap into energy efficiency incentives save on farm energy improvements while lowering their power bills, according to two energy contractors with Ameren Illinois.

Use energy incentives to lower power bills, be paid for upgrades

John Bientema and Larry Erwin, energy advisers with Leidos Inc., discussed how the state mandated program applies to public utilities’ farm customers. While the two explained Ameren’s programs, Nicor and ComEd offer similar ones to their customers, Bientema noted.

“The power grid is decades old and what we’re trying to do is reduce that strain on the grid,” Bientema said of the program.

The Ameren’s incentives are available to farmers who receive monthly Ameren bills. Those customers could receive “an actual check to offset (energy) upgrades to the farm” and cut their monthly energy costs by 10% to 20%, Bientema said.

Erwin serves southern Illinois customers, while six other advisers serve other Ameren territories. Energy advisers provide information and direct customers to registered contractors who assist with projects and application forms.

Ameren’s business energy incentives cover nine types of projects. Those are lighting, heating and cooling, variable frequency drives, leak survey and repair, steam traps, specialty equipment, custom, retro-commissioning and new construction. All custom, retro-commissioning and new construction projects require preapproval that usually takes four to six weeks, Erwin stressed.

“I tell customers to always assume they will need to get their project preapproved before starting, send the application form for review first and wait for preapproval,” Erwin advised. Any commitments made in advance could cause the project to be ineligible for incentives, he added.

Additional early bird incentive bonuses are available through Sept. 30 and range from 5% to 15%. Erwin explained an individual with a $5,000 base incentive could receive an additional $750 or 15% if the project is completed by March 31.

Erwin encouraged farmers to check the rate code on their bills. Those with DS2 or DS1, which applies to a farm and farm residence, may qualify for the small business direct program. A contractor could conduct a business energy assessment, provide a free smart thermostat, and order and install equipment.

“If you’re interested in a project, we need to know if you are a combination residence and a farm, and we will provide the incentives for the project for your farm,” Erwin said.

In the near future, Erwin said, Ameren will have special offerings for grain and livestock farms, and those who operate greenhouses, and will offer farm energy audits.

Residential energy savings are available through lighting purchases by buying bulbs marked with Ameren stickers, through smart thermostats, and heating and cooling improvements, according to Bientema.

An appliance recycling program covers refrigerators and freezers. “We can pick up a working refrigerator or freezer and give you a $50 check,” he said. During COVID restrictions, the appliance must be in a garage or outside of a home to be collected.

More information on energy incentives is available on the Ameren website.

Illinois energy advisers and their territories are: