Energy efficiency finance joins the starting line-up

Blog | May 06, 2014 - 1:53 pm
By Jim Barrett, Visiting Fellow

After a long warm-up, energy efficiency is taking its rightful place as a starting player in the clean energy game. This spring, we’ve seen both the public and the private sector put serious resources into helping build financing solutions to help efficiency reach the scale it needs.

Let’s face it, energy supply options like renewables have been the marquis players in this game until now: wind turbines and solar fields are a lot more interesting to look at than an electric meter running more slowly than it used to. However, for those of us who love energy efficiency and the puzzle of coming up with effective financing solutions for the efficiency market, it’s a pretty exciting time to be in our field.

As we highlighted a few weeks ago, our friends over at WHEEL recently announced what feels like a watershed development in efficiency financing: a facility to help group a large number of relatively small efficiency loans into a financial project big enough to attract large investment banks and drive more investment into the efficiency market. We’re looking at up to $100 million worth of capital that could flow through the WHEEL facility into efficiency projects in homes and businesses.

A few days later, the Department of Energy announced that it’s making $4 billion available for loan guarantees for clean energy projects, including energy efficiency. If you look closely at past loan guarantee programs, you would see that efficiency has been a part of past DOE efforts, but in my memory, this is the first time they've called it out at the top of the announcement instead of leaving it deep in the paperwork for brave souls to come find. Like the WHEEL announcement, this feels like a pretty significant shift in the clean energy space. Even if it only gets a small share of the program, tens or hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of efficiency projects could get federal backing.

And as if all of this wasn’t exciting enough, in 5 days, we’re hosting our annual Energy Efficiency Finance Forum at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC. The program highlights how both private and public sector players are pushing this market to scale. We will be focusing specifically on driving demand for projects and looking ahead to exploring how programs across the country are encouraging consumers and businesses take advantage of the low-cost capital flowing into the market. It’s not too late to register online and come watch the game from the front row. We’ll also be accepting walk-up registrations on the day of the conference.