Millions of people talk about going green as a great way to help the planet and its inhabitants, but for most people this is just a vague concept. Jonathan Duncklee, Duncklee Cooling & Heating in Stonington, is one of those who practice what they preach, especially about ‘going green’. “Every day, we need to be environmentally conscious,” he says. “And it is encouraging to see that our state government has begun providing positive incentives for both residents and businesses over the past few years.”
When he heard about the state of CT’s Small ZREC Program a couple of years ago, he decided to jump on it, and called Bonner Electric in Norwich. Duncklee, stays on top of the latest in energy news both personally and professionally, told Brian Bonner, “I want to do this. Let’s talk about putting solar panels on our building’s roof.” Why would a small businessman be so interested in solar energy and the latest state program? Yes, he could see the tangible advantages to his business, such as empowering him to improve his bottom line by taking advantage of the program rebates for energy-saving as well as renewable energy improvements, but it also falls within his clean environment philosophy.
“More and more businesses are trimming costs by looking deeply at how they use energy, and the state of CT was offering me a chance to reduce upfront costs and affordable financing, but I had to move fast,” shares Duncklee. “We are an energy company, this is what we do. Even though we offer cooling and heating, we are aware of renewable energy, and are always looking to offer our own customers the best, most efficient products. And here was our state government offering us an opportunity to make some advance movement into renewable to make our own business cleaner and more profitable at the same time.”
To begin, he needed to educate himself on the different programs available that were being offered in 2011, as the statewide goals with their legislative clean energy initiatives included solar class 1 as a renewable resource in the portfolio. In promoting renewable to help the economy, there was a comprehensive approach to offer several programs with different levels, but the process was not easy. The process is: Application, Selection, Executive Service Agreement, Provide Performance Assurance, Prerequisites for Purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), 5 to 15 Year Contract, Excess REC Options, Sell to Third Party or Bank RECs or Sell to Utility. Once reviewing the programs, i.e Zero Emission Renewable Energy Credit (ZREC) for solar, wind and small hydro, and decide on which would be the best investment for a commercial entity, Duncklee needed to do some investing in an engineering analysis (within a short time period) to determine load capability for the solar equipment, so that he would have a site analysis preapproval, a needs letter and cost analysis. The ZREC program creates a market-driven bidding process for projects to compete to obtain a 15-year revenue stream from the sale of RECs to the electric utilities. When this was done, the initial program he was looking at (DG program) was phased out, and he looked to do the ZREC program, which had a better return on his investment. “You basically design a system to fit the program you are going after, make adjustments and then present your case so that you can be considered in the auction process,” says Brian Bonner. They were looking at a five-year program, and each year you do the rounds to bid, hoping that you are picked. You can figure on 1/3 of the applications being considered in the drawing, until the maximum number is hit.
Duncklee’s application just missed selection, but was brought back in when another selected business didn’t make it. Once Duncklee and Bonner heard they were selected, it was time to get town permits, pay the deposit, order the equipment and get started. Generally, this type of project takes between 1 to 2 months after release.
Although there was an initial investment to apply (with no guarantees of being selected), Duncklee was committed to proceed with the project. “The payback a few years down the road is phenomenal for a business like us,” says Duncklee. “And we have worked with Bonner Electric before and trust their capabilities to work with us from the application process through to completion of the construction.” Both businesses began back in the 70’s, when there was a lot more manufacturing industry in eastern CT. The close relationship began with the company founders, Jonathan’s father Les Duncklee and Brian’s father Joseph Bonner. Over the years, both companies have had to adjust to economical and environmental changes. That is why it seemed like a natural fit to work together on this project.
The CT Clean Energy Bill offers renewable portfolio standards (RPS) which requires the state’s electric suppliers and electric distribution companies to obtain a portion of their power from renewable resources. The legislation defines the scope of the largest group of qualifying renewable energy sources, which are defined as Class I renewable energy sources. In CT, solar incentives or subsidies to business owners are offered through utilities, while some are offered by the state itself with rebates, tax incentives and others that help reduce the up-front cost of solar for potential buyers. Being a moderately sunny state with an average of about 2,400 to 2,800 hours of annual sunshine, CT offers more than enough to justify solar. The state’s laws and regulations are encouraging more renewable, i.e. the state’s RPS requires that 27% of electricity comes from renewable by 2020. Of that, 20% must come from “Class I” renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, tidal and other technologies.
And the payback? A new report released by the Geostellar Solar Index has found that CT and New York offer two of the highest Internal Rates of Return on solar energy in the country (the 4th highest and 3rd highest, to be exact) for residential. What that means is that installing a solar system in these two states is more profitable than the stock market, U.S. Treasuries and CD’s. How much more profitable? 16-17% compared to 9.9%, 3.7% and 0.75%, respectively. One of the reasons they rank so high in solar profitability is due to the excellent tax credits and incentives that they offer.
Both Duncklee Cooling and Heating and Bonner Electric are local businesses in southeastern CT. Duncklee Cooling & Heating, located in Stonington, recently celebrated 40 years in business, started by Jonathan’s father Les Duncklee in the family home. Over the years, the business has changed with product lines for both personal and professional reasons. “I have always believed in staying on top of the latest technological changes in cooling and heating products,” says Jonathan. Today the company offers custom design, installation and service of residential and commercial heating and cooling HVAC systems, and provides the latest in technology available, such as ductless central air conditioning and heat pumps, hybrid/dual fuel cooling and heating systems, geothermal heat pumps, tankless instant hot water heaters and boilers, and offers superior service on all brands.
Bonner Electric is one of the oldest and most reliable industrial/commercial electrical contractors in southeastern CT, established in 1976 and located in Uncasville. The company motto is “Meeting Needs, Exceeding Expectations.” Brian Bonner shares, “We focus resources where they are best served, whoever has large critical need jobs, such as data centers who needs their electricity to NOT go down, financial institutions, educational institutions, municipal and government entities to name a few. We basically offer crisis control, managing risk, minimizing risk, offering less exposure to crisis downtime for clients.”
“Jonathan and Brian epitomize the best in our small businesses,” said State Senator Andrew Maynard (D-Stonington), Vice Chair of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Environment Committee. “We in the legislature created these types of business incentives to reward innovative business people. By taking advantage of the State’s support, these local businesses will be greener and more profitable. It’s a win for the businesses, their customers, and the entire state.”