Have you ever wondered about all the different incentives — besides your immediate bottom line — there are for energy efficiency and renewables?

Going to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency website (see pullout information) shows 95 different programs in Illinois to help defer the upfront cost of putting in energy saving and producing equipment.

In the solar energy world we like to say: “For every $1 spent on energy efficiency you will save $3 to $5 on your solar system.”

Energy efficiency and energy savings are very important to look at and considered before installing solar. Doing both energy efficiency and solar can make a “Zero Energy” building in that it produces onsite enough energy to offset your annual utility energy usage. Some months the building produces more than it needs and some months it produces less than it needs with the goal to produce up to your annual energy usage.

This is allowed under the Public Utilities Regulatory Participation Act of 1978, which was updated in 2002 which says utilities have to provide a credit to you when you turn the meter backwards when your solar or renewable energy system produces more than your building uses. The law was created in response to the 1970s energy crisis to promote more use of renewable energy.

Did you know you can get a $100 off rebate for a smart thermostat like a Nest? If you turn back your thermostat one degree for eight hours a day you will save three percent on your monthly bill. It is much easier to do if you have a programmable or even better a smart thermostat. Programmable thermostats need to be programed while a smart thermostat like the Nest learns your habits and adjusts accordingly.

There are lots of incentives for businesses to do complete energy saving light upgrades and I will cover lighting in upcoming articles as lighting is the quick low hanging fruit.

The most popular incentive right now is Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) as it is a cash back program. Basically, a solar electric (photovoltaic) system produces regular electricity that offsets your electric bill and it produces clean energy. People always ask me how they can get the utility company to pay them for energy production. The utility doesn’t necessarily buy produced energy but the Illinois Power Agency does buy your clean energy based on how much you produce and that is measured in SRECs. The SRECs that are currently available — until they run out or the end of the year — covers 33 percent of the cost of photovoltaic system.

Along with the 30 percent tax credit and the 30 percent Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System — MACRS which is an accelerated depreciation — a business gets 93 percent of their money back without even counting energy savings.

I have been installing solar for 18 years and have seen the cost of solar drop sharply.

I now feel like a game show host showcasing what's behind the curtain as there is so many incentives. This makes me tingle with excitement and energy because it means I can help many more people “Get Energized!”

Aur 'DaEnergyMon' Beck, is a NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installer™ with AES Solar in Carterville and started educating himself about renewable energy as a teenager even before (at age 15) he moved into a camper in his parents driveway to live off grid solar and ended up living off grid for 18 years. Aur understands that living how he does makes it very easy to advocate for a life of simpler living, energy efficiency and renewable energy. His name Aur (pronounced "or") means light or to enlighten in Hebrew. Can be reached at tech@AESsolar.com