A comprehensive cash-for-clunker-lighting program already exists, says the National Lighting Bureau (NLB), but far too few commercial-lighting decision-makers are using it. According to NLB President Howard P. Lewis, by qualifying for the Commercial Building Tax Deduction (CBTD), commercial-lighting-system owners can derive a tax benefit to help offset the cost of a new lighting system or lighting-system improvement, up to $0.60/sq ft.

"The federal tax benefit in many cases only scratches the surface of the financial benefits available," says Mike Colotti, VP, brand management and marketing communications, for NLB sponsor Osram Sylvania. "Other financial incentives include tax or other benefits from state governments, as well as rebates from local electric utilities, plus significant utility savings in the form of lower energy costs and lower demand charges."

In addition, demand charges are based on the rate at which a commercial entity consumes electricity. Those that need more at any given time pay more, because the utility must invest more in generation, transmission, and distribution equipment to meet a customer’s instantaneous need. In many cases, demand charges can be influenced for months or an entire year based on a maximum need that occurs for an hour or less each year. In some cases, demand charges can equal or even exceed the cost of energy consumption.

"It’s important to note that July 1 marked an important changing of the guard," says Colotti. On that date, it became illegal to manufacture or import many popular, conventional T12 magnetic replacement ballasts. (The use of T12 magnetic ballasts in new lighting fixtures was phased out in prior years.) NLB estimates that as many as 500 million conventional T12 lamps are in place; perhaps more. "And conventional T12 lighting, by today's technological standards, are true dinosaurs," adds Colotti. "Many popular T12 lamps will be eliminated as of July 14, 2012, because of the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) lamp rulemaking and the ongoing fluorescent-ballast rulemaking process that is expected to eliminate even more T12 ballasts. People need to get those T12 systems out of their buildings while incentives still are available to help offset their costs. Once we reach the point where T12 systems can’t be purchased or maintained — and we’ll be there soon — there’ll be no reason to incentivize owners to replace them. They’ll have no choice."

"T12 lighting-system owners should at least evaluate alternatives," says Lewis. "We are convinced that, in many cases, the benefits of conversion would be so eye-popping, conversion would begin almost immediately."

NLB operates a free service at its website, listing lighting-system designers throughout the United States, as well as individuals qualified to certify that a given lighting-system design qualifies for a CBTD tax benefit.