For retailers, lighting accounts for a significant percentage of their electricity costs, which installing more energy-efficient lighting can reduce. Working for Philips Lighting with the largest retailers in the United States, Leendert Jan Enthoven, right, regularly got questions from his customers about potential rebates and tax incentives that might decrease their costs. “Big retailers, with hundreds and perhaps thousands of locations were always wanting to know what money they could get from government or utilities to lower the cost of the products they were purchasing,” he says.
Although many rebates, tax deductions, and tax incentives for energy-efficient lighting were on the books, lighting distributors and contractors kept asking about what specifically was available in their geographic areas. Realizing that the answer to their questions required knowledge of potential savings and the ability to analyze lighting needs and compare different lighting scenarios, Enthoven saw a business opportunity.
In early 2008 he resigned from Philips Lighting and founded BriteSwitch, based at 195 Nassau Street, to help businesses reduce their costs on energy-efficient lighting through rebates and tax incentives offered by government and utilities. Federal and state governments support energy efficiency to be environmentally responsible and to fulfill international agreements, as well as to create jobs. At the same time utilities are trying to avoid building new power plants because they either don’t have the money for it or are unable to get the necessary permits.
Despite the generous pots of funding, though, finding money may not be so easy. “Money that might be available in one location could be totally different than in the next county or district where another utility is operating,” says Enthoven. Or a rebate may be limited to very specific products. Just trading thick T-12 fluorescent tubes for more energy-efficient T-8 lamps, for example, may not be sufficient. “Although there is a big drive in the market to purchase T-8 lamps,” says Enthoven, “in one town the type of T-8 lamp you need to pick in order to qualify could be totally different than in the next town.”
BriteSwitch finds what money from government or utilities might be available to a particular client through its proprietary database and uses different techniques to further reduce its customers’ lighting costs, such as optimized timing. Often existing funding sources are temporarily out of money, having spent the funds allocated for a specific calendar year. BriteSwitch times its customers’ requests to achieve optimum savings. “If we know that they will get new funds in six weeks,” says Enthoven, “then we schedule projects when the funds are there.”
Sometimes temporary bonus programs become available. A utility, for instance, might offer extra money in the summer months because it is concerned about blackouts due to excessive air conditioning. Or a government may throw extra money into a program if the previous year’s funding was not used up. Then, of course, there is old-fashioned negotiation. Sometimes BriteSwitch’s engineers can convince engineers from states or utilities that the specific products its customer wants to use should get rebates or incentives.
BriteSwitch serves large national retailers as well as smaller businesses. For national retailers with multiple locations across the United States, Enthoven works with big distributors and contractors, with his company as a third team player. The distributor delivers the products; the contractor audits all the stores to determine what kinds of lighting they have and then installs the new products. As the third company on the team, BriteSwitch ascertains what rebates or incentives exist, decides what products should be used in which stores to maximize rebates, and then completes the paperwork and coordinates any necessary inspections.
Other clients are regional, often with a single location, for example, an office building, a warehouse, a factory, or a school. BriteSwitch helps these customers find lighting that will save energy and money and provide sufficient light to create an environment where people are happy to work.
BriteSwitch will walk through the building and advise customers about what type of lighting is appropriate for different areas like halls and offices. It will explain why a particular type of light makes sense and estimate the energy savings, costs, payback period, and return on investment. Enthoven also works with local distributors who locate the desired products and local contractors who install them.
BriteSwitch also pursues local rebates and incentives, and completes the paperwork necessary for federal tax deductions. “It is pretty complicated,” says Enthoven. “You have to have a lighting engineering background to make those calculations and prepare that type of paperwork.”
And Enthoven does. He grew up in Holland and graduated from the Delft University of Technology with a master’s in mechanical engineering. His father, also a mechanical engineer, worked for Unilever, the last few years as a project manager in the United Kingdom.
After finishing college he went to work for Philips Lighting, one of biggest employers in Holland. As a process engineer, he optimized the factory to manufacture lamps smoothly, with less downtime and better-quality products. He then became manufacturing manager for different Philips factories in Holland and then a project manager in charge of moving production lines from Holland to Poland.
Next he moved to Belgium, where he did product management and business development for high-intensity discharge lighting used in street lights as well as factories, warehouses, and stores. A few years later he was asked to move to the United States, where he was responsible for the product management of the Philips high intensity discharge lighting solutions in retail applications.
Enthoven says he chose Princeton because it is “nicely in the center of the entire Northeast, where the majority of my clients are – the headquarters of the large retail chains.”
Although the biggest challenge BriteSwitch has faced is the fact that it was founded in 2008, when the global economy was collapsing, the company has been helped along by the stimulus money as well as the drive for increased energy efficiency in the last couple years.
The company has plenty of business, though, and Enthoven is not concerned about any decrease in stimulus money, because utilities will continue to have an interest in avoiding building extra power plants. And as the population grows, the utilities’ interest in energy efficiency will grow with it.
Also driving energy efficiency are the global agreements between the United States and European countries in the context of global warming. Finally, he adds, the United States is committed to reducing its dependence on foreign oil. “The drive toward energy efficiency is not going away in the next few years,” he says. “It’s only going to increase.”
#b#BriteSwitch#/b#, 195 Nassau Street, Suite 13, Princeton 08542-7004; 609-945-5349. Leendert Jan Enthoven, president. Home page: www.briteswitch.com.