2019 changes to the VS pump rebate from a Southern California utilities service cause a stir in the pool industry
By Michelle L. Cramer
Southern California Edison made significant changes to its rebate program for utility customers who upgrade their pools from a one or two speed pump to a variable-speed pump. Previously, the $200 rebate was offered as long as proof of purchase was provided. But as of this year, the rebate is only available if the pump is purchased from a retail location or online retail store, leaving out a large portion of pool service and repair professionals who work from their truck.
To clarify, SCE sent the following in email:
The main 2019 changes to the program are that SCE will no longer offer $100 incentives to pool contractors and authorized/certified pool contractors can no longer offer point-of-sale discounts to SCE customers unless they sign up for the Point of Sale Promotion by meeting the following requirements:
- Operates one or more physical retail store locations in the SCE service territory
- Sells qualified products to retail customers in SCE service territory
- Agrees to meet SCE’s data tracking and reporting requirements
- Provides SCE with all of the following documents: addresses of each retail location offering point-of-sale discount, a completed and signed Allocation Form (Exhibit A), a completed tax document CA590 Form, a completed tax document W-9 and a signed and accepted 2019 PLA HEER Program Master Contract
- Agrees to allow SCE inspectors to conduct random inspections and secret shopper verifications at your retail locations
So far, 84 approved retail locations were provided by the SCE website, 78 of which are Leslie’s Pool Supply retail locations. The California Pool and Spa Association expressed concern at the onset of these changes, stating, “Many installers have previously participated in the program as the SCE website has a ‘marketplace’ link that allows consumers to shop for variable-speed pumps. In addition, many of the VSP manufacturers are downsizing their warranties on pumps purchased over the internet. This is another problem for the industry in CA, and a disservice to the consumers of the 2019 program.”
Bob Nichols, owner of Precision Pools in San Dimas, California, and member of the IPSSA Government Relations Committee says that, upon learning of the SCE rebate changes in late February, the committee sent an email to the director of SCE expressing concerns. SCE responded quickly with an invitation for IPSSA to form a delegation of stakeholders to meet.
At the March 5 meeting, manufacturer representatives from Hayward, Pentair and Zodiac were present, as well as a PoolCorp and CPSA representatives (pictured).
“For the most part, SCE was not fully aware as to how the swimming pool retail business is organized,” Nichols says. “The delegation worked hard to outline how product moves from manufacturer to consumer. We felt confident that SCE now understands just how important the truck and toolbox retailer is to the success of multispeed pump installation.”
There was some discussion regarding the SCE’s website marketplace and Nichols says the delegation came away from the table with little expectation that this platform will change. “But there may be some improvements that will assist the SCE certified installer in participating in the rebate program,” he says. Incidentally, he adds, the marketplace platform is on all California investor-owned utilities websites.
In a statement provided to PoolPro, Jennifer Hatfield, director of government affairs for the APSP, says:
“APSP supports the good work Cal Edison and other utilities are doing when it comes to rebate programs for VS pool pumps, both in California and across the country. We also support our industry members who are working with other trade groups to try to address the concern that Cal Edison has restricted who can provide a rebate. It is our belief that allowing pool professionals (both service and builders), as well as retail stores, to offer the rebate to consumers will ensure a greater number of California citizens obtain these energy efficient pumps ‑— providing both the consumer savings on their utility bill and the state with less demand on the grid. APSP and its members have worked cooperatively with utilities in California and other states on common goals and are happy to assist on this issue moving forward.”
Of note is the new policy from Zodiac Pool Systems, launched Jan. 1, which no longer allows Jandy Pro Series products to be sold online and refrains from providing warranty coverage for these products if purchased online. The move toward this policy was in an effort to protect trade professionals, but the new SCE rebate requirements contradict the changes in Zodiac’s policy.
“Our commitment to pool service professionals is steadfast,” says Michelle Kenyon, senior vice president of marketing and customer experience at Zodiac. “We’re dedicated to ensuring their success despite SCE’s decision to make the changes they did. In order to offset the impact SCE’s new policy has had already, and will have if it persists, we’re offering our own $200 rebate program for pool professionals in Southern California.”
The IPSSA committee is still waiting to hear SCE’s final decision regarding suggested changes to its VS pump rebate program.
“On a personal note, this was the first time that all bodies of the industry have combined their efforts since the 2009 IPSSA Energy Conference,” Nichols says. “I am hopeful that, at some point, there can be a delegation of manufacturing, distribution, retail and service that can come together from time to time and discuss industry issues on a level playing field. Honestly, discussing the state of the industry as a group working to inform, teach, protect and improve our chosen field can only be to everyone’s benefit.”