After initially being turned down, the industry in Southern California was able to negotiate a deal to re-allow service companies and contractors to participate in Southern California Edison’s Rebate program for energy-efficient pumps.

“It’s going to open them up to being able to do what they do and better serve their consumers,” said Jerry Wallace, chairman of the California Pool & Spa Association (CPSA). “In the end, the consumers win, and the service industry wins.”

Earlier this year, the service and construction segments learned that their customers in SCE territory could no longer receive rebates except through approved retailers. The utility decided to work solely through the retailers as a way to streamline the process. Additionally, pump sellers no longer receive rebates, and a certification program for pump installers was discontinued.

In response, a group of industry advocates met with SCE representatives to explain the key role service firms play in promoting and delivering the rebates, and to propose a way to bring them back into the fold. While the industry understood that rebates for professionals were off the table, they wanted to help their customers take advantage of the opportunity.

“[The consumer’s] preferred provider, in most cases, is going to be the people who service their pool on a regular basis,” Wallace said. “They’re the ones who they trust, have a relationship with, and who are familiar with their pool ... So they’re going to be able to provide the best product and the best application and installation to those customers.”

Industry representation included the CPSA, the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association (IPSSA), PoolCorp and various manufacturers.

But SCE doubled down, saying it would continue to work solely with approved brick and mortar retailers, believing these companies to be in a better position to work within a so-called midstream system, in which the dealer gives the consumer an instant rebate and applies for reimbursement from SCE.

After arranging a meeting with higher-ups at SCE, the industry convinced the utility to reverse its stance, and has agreed to the industry’s proposal. While the details are still being worked out, the basic arrangement allows distributors to gain approval from SCE to offer the midstream rebates. Service firms and contractors can purchase the pumps through these approved distributors. While making the purchase, the service and contracting firms must provide the homeowner’s name, SCE account number and other information. The distributor will provide the rebate on the spot and then seek reimbursement from the utility. The service firm or contractor will pass the rebate on to the client.

This new system is expected to be in place by June 1, Wallace said.

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