Energy Efficiency Financing
Early adopters of solar energy and energy efficiency practices may have been ahead of the innovation curve, but the rest of America is finally catching up. According to research by the Solar Energy Industries Association, 2013 saw a 421% increase in new photovoltaic systems in installed over the previous year.
According to Jon Doochin, chief executive of Soligent, a solar distributor in California, “Solar in no longer an emerging technology. People say, ‘Solar. I get it.’” In other words, as research on greenhouse gas emissions’ impact on global warming become more stark and renewable technology becomes more efficient and affordable (in contrast with the cost of traditional utilities which is becoming increasingly greater), people have become more convinced of the wisdom of adopting energy efficient practices and technologies.
That’s good news for the environment as residential buildings make up 22% of all US energy use, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. In fact, increasing the energy efficiency of just those homes built prior to 1970, by installing spray foam insulation, for examples, could cut the total residential energy use by 10 percent.
An interesting side effect of this energy renaissance is coming in the form of innovations in economics. As the importance of changes in energy practice becomes more immediate, financial institutions are creating new means to finance renewable energies and energy efficiency renovations. These innovations mean increased financial security on all fronts. Solar systems not only boost a home’s resale price by $17,000, according to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, but it’s estimated that investment in energy efficiency and advanced technology would support an increase of 1.3 to 1.9 million jobs by 2050.
One such initiative called WHEEL is the brainchild of the financial conglomerate Citi, the Pennsylvania state treasury, and several non-profit organizations. WHEEL, which is based on Pennsylvania’s successful HELP program, will provide homeowners across the country with access to a $100 million fund to instantly secure low-cost loans that they will be able to use for a variety of energy improvements on their homes – from solar panel installation to attic insulation. Because contractors will be authorized to offer the loans, homeowners won’t be forced to deal with state or local bureaucrats. WHEEL will be available in all states who choose to participate in 2015.
Another innovative approach to funding energy innovation comes through the very new practice of crowdsourcing. In California, the startup Mosaic, is giving ordinary investors, regular Joes and Janes, the opportunity to invest not only in commercial and non-profit projects, but in residential projects. In other words, Californians can help their neighbors become more energy wise through private, shared funding.
It’s an exciting time to be in the business of providing alternative energy technologies to homeowners, to be a part of a grassroots movement to lessen the nation’s carbon footprint, and to improve the financial prospects of Americans through better energy practices.
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