Many sustainability professionals have experienced the frustration of not being able to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades for the sole reason that they are not able to pay for it. Even if the return-on-investment (ROI) is great, the cost of delaying the upgrade is high, and there is staff buy-in sometimes upgrades simply do not fit within the budget. However, the world of energy efficiency and renewable energy financing has matured considerably over the last ten years enabling many public and private sector entities to implement upgrades that would have previously not been feasible. In fact, over the past decade, public-private financing programs for energy efficiency and renewable energy has grown to approximately $3 billion in 2013.
The following is a quick description of different financing mechanisms and funding resources that public and private sector entities can potentially tap into to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects (Note: each state and public jurisdiction has its own laws and statutes that may limit their ability to utilize some of the following mechanisms):
- Bond Financing: Bonds are a very common mechanism for financing in the public sector. They utilize debt security that can be used to pay for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades.
- Credit Enhancement Mechanisms: Credit enhancement is a method to expand the pool of borrowers who are able to access funding by improving the credit worthiness. Credit enhancement mechanisms include loan guarantees, interest rate buy-downs, and loan loss reserves.
- Energy Performance Contracting (EPC): EPC is a very popular way for public sector entities to finance improvements with guaranteed savings. EPC makes use of the cost saving from reduced energy and water consumption to help repay the cost of installing energy and water conservation measures. EPC takes advantage of tax-exempt lease-purchase agreements, which allow public organizations to pay for upgrades by using money already set aside in annual utility budgets. For more information on Colorado’s EPC program click here. For more information on other states EPC programs click here.
- Grants: Grants can be a lot of work to apply for and the timing can be an issue but they can make the difference of whether or not to move forward with a project. Grants can be provided through public sector entities (federal, state, and local) and non-profits.
- Green Banks: Green Banks are generally public financing institutions that support “green” investments by offering below-market interest rates or other financing incentives.
- On-Bill Financing and Repayment Programs: On-bill mechanisms are loans made by or in partnership with a utility. They allow customers to implement energy and water efficiency measures and then repay the loan with an additional monthly fee on their utility bills.
- Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE): PACE is an increasingly common financing mechanism that enables property owners to implement energy and water improvements on their property and repay the costs through an annual assessment on their property tax bill. Click here to find out if PACE is available to you.
- Rebates and Other Incentives: For a better understanding of the rebates and other incentives available in your area see the DSIRE website.
- Revolving Loan Funds: Revolving loan funds provide financing for improvements. As loans are repaid, additional loans are made by the utility, government entity, or lending agency.
For additional information on financing program options, see the excellent NASEO report, Unlocking Demand: An Analysis of State Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Financing Programs in the Buildings and Industrial Sectors, which summarizes best practices from 21 state energy financing programs.
Emily Artale, PE, CEM, LEED AP is Principal Engineer and Owner at Lotus Engineering and Sustainability, LLC. Emily has been working in the industry for nearly a decade and she has a background in energy management, sustainability planning, and water quality. Emily helps teams develop action-oriented solutions that will improve efficiency and integrate sustainability into current processes. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in environmental engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is a Colorado native and spends most of her time outdoors with her family.
Hillary Dobos, MBA, LEED GA is Principal and Owner at Lotus Engineering and Sustainability, LLC. Hillary brings both expertise and creative thinking to working with clients which she draws from her experience as a consultant advising public and private clients throughout the United States, as well as the one tasked with embedding sustainability throughout a 25,000+ person organization. Hillary has served on various local and national boards focused on conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Hillary earned her B.A. in Art History and Economics from Bowdoin College in Maine and her MBA from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Hillary was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, where she currently enjoys life with her husband, sons, and moderately trained canine, Mr. Smiles.
Disclaimer: The information presented above is based on the opinions and experience of the authors. The authors are not liable for any errors or omissions in this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.