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SEEA Launches Finance Network

ATLANTA, Georgia (May 13, 2014) – Today at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s Finance Forum in Washington, D.C., the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) and the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), announced the launch of the Southeast Energy Efficiency Finance Network. The purpose of this new network is to engage a multitude of energy efficiency participants in the Southeast, offering them robust educational opportunities, case studies, best practices and the support system needed to build a profitable region-wide base of energy efficiency financing programs. The Network, which launches with approximately $1M of targeted capital support from the U.S. Department of Energy, welcomes the participation of regional banks, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), credit unions, utilities, contractors, nonprofits, trade associations and government agencies.

“Stand-alone energy efficiency financing programs are few and small relative to the many loan programs Americans access for home improvements and traditional commercial building upgrades,” said SEEA President Mandy Mahoney about the impetus for this new network. “Yet energy efficiency programs, facilitated by the availability of well-designed financing, have powerful economic impacts in communities where they are implemented. They spur job creation and local spending, while saving their owners money on utility bills,” she said.

Utility household expenditures relative to income in the Southeast are some of the highest in the country, and disproportionately impact low- and mid-income families, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. At the same time, good financing programs that encourage energy efficiency investments have had difficulty gaining traction. According to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), there are more than 300 comprehensive energy efficiency financing programs in the U.S., with only a dozen or so in the Southeast, and all lack one or more key success characteristics, which include high dollar loan volumes; high participation rates; a comprehensive offering of measures; and attractive participant loan sizes.

“There are several barriers to energy efficiency investing, especially in the Southeast,” explained SEEA Director of Programs Timothy Block. “Access to financing is problematic for those who need it most. For example, investment payback periods often exceed owner time horizons, and this is especially true for commercial building owners. We also find that lending institution portfolio sizes are small and haven’t been successful to date in the secondary financial markets. Last, there still exists an information gap around the effectiveness of various energy efficiency measures.”

Simply offering new sources of capital has not translated to uptake and new energy efficiency projects. Explains Jeff Hughes, director of the Environmental Finance Center at UNC’s School of Government, “By launching the Southeast Energy Efficiency Finance Network, we will examine new ways of generating capital, and just as importantly, we will tackle head-on the many administrative and marketing barriers to energy efficiency finance. By collaborating with diverse organizations to identify ‘choke points,’ we expect to build well-crafted and well-subscribed energy efficiency financing programs that effectively incorporate the legal, social and economic conditions of the Southeast.”

The Southeast Energy Efficiency Finance Network 
The Finance Network will serve as a convener and educator for all of its stakeholders, offering a centralized information resource and tools for collaboration, as well as research and technical advisory services to facilitate energy efficiency financing programs. The Network will work closely with similar regional and national organizations to share ideas and resources, thereby avoiding duplication. Network activities and resources will include:

  • Best practices, case studies and white papers
  • Innovative pilot programs
  • Contractor finance training
  • Collaborative roundtables and summits
  • Financial models and calculators
  • Standardized procedures and documents (On-Bill Financing and/or PACE)
  • Centralized information on federal programs
  • Online loan applications and calculators for contractors
  • A Loan Guarantee Program (like the SBA Small Business Guarantee)
  • Measurement and verification tools
  • Loan performance data

Network Origins, Funding and RFP Results 
The Southeast Energy Efficiency Finance Network has its roots in SEEA’s work on the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings Neighborhood Program which created and launched residential energy efficiency programs in thirteen southeastern cities from 2010 to 2013. As one of DOE’s top performing grantees with more than 6,200 energy efficiency retrofits completed, SEEA oversaw $20M in funding that supported lending and other financing initiatives. The goal of this work was to create sustainable energy efficiency programs as well as public-private partnerships with lending institutions in each of the 13 participating cities.

Near the completion of the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program in 2013, SEEA received a no-cost extension from DOE to leverage funds of nearly $1M to seed a Regional Energy Efficiency Lending Partnership Program. This program, which will serve as a cornerstone for the new Finance Network’s educational efforts, will provide energy efficiency retrofit loans to home- and building-owners. Selection of financial partners to help implement this program is currently underway, based on a competitive RFP process. Results of the RFP selection process will be announced by SEEA in June 2014.

Next Steps 

The Southeast Energy Efficiency Finance Network invites all interested energy efficiency stakeholders to contact Timothy Block, Director of Programs, tblock@seealliance.org; 404-602-9652 about participating in this network.

The Finance Network expects to get underway with a webinar to be held on Thursday, June 19th at 2 p.m. EST. Please check online at www.SoutheastFinanceNetwork.com for information and updates.

About the Environmental Finance Center

The Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at the University of North Carolina (UNC) reaches local communities through the delivery of interactive training programs, applied research, and technical assistance. The EFC at UNC sees one of its major roles as increasing the capacity of other organizations to address the financial aspects of environmental protection and service delivery. For this reason and to support the leveraging of resources, the EFC does most of its training in a collaborative manner – partnering with established organizations that have environmental but not necessarily financial expertise. In addition to direct community outreach, the EFC works with decision makers to assess the effectiveness of environmental finance policies at a regional or state level, and to improve those policies as a way of supporting local efforts. Visit EFC online at www.efc.sog.unc.edu/.

About the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance 

The Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) is one of six regional energy efficiency organizations in the United States working to transform the energy efficiency marketplace through collaborative public policy, thought leadership, outreach programs and technical advisory services. We promote energy efficiency as a catalyst for economic growth, workforce development and energy security across 11 southeastern states. These states include Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Visit SEEA online at www.seealliance.org.

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