The way that drinking water and wastewater systems pay for energy improvements in the United States is changing – including for small drinking water systems (serving 10,000 or fewer people). As has often been mentioned on the EFC’s blog, the days of huge federal grants for construction of water and wastewater systems are long past. Since an energy improvement is a kind of capital improvement, there are many ways to pay for such projects: cash savings (e.g. through a utility’s capital improvement fund); loans (state revolving fund loans or bank loans); issuing bonds (if you are a local government entity); internal energy revolving funds; and more. But coming up with the initial capital through one of the aforementioned means can be challenging.
On Monday, June 8, 2015, Hawai’i Governor David Y. Ige signed into law four energy bills, including House Bill 623, which will “strengthen Hawaii’s commitment to clean energy by directing the state’s utilities to generate 100 percent of their electricity sales from renewable energy resources by 2045,” according to the press release by the Governor’s office. This remarkable measure will make Hawai‘i the first state in the country to have a 100 percent renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) for the electricity sector.
In honor of the UN’s World Water Day, a group of us from the Environmental Finance Center attended last month a performance of the play, “An Enemy of the People,” at Playmakers Theater here on UNC’s beautiful campus. It was well done and featured timeless, dramatic themes such as the struggle of one man’s battle to awaken the conscience of the community, the role of a whistleblower, the struggle to protect one’s family, and more. But the play also revolves around environmental finance and governance themes, which got me to wondering: How might this story (essentially set in nineteenth century Norway) fare differently in our own time and place? What different options for protection of public health and promotion of sustainable finance would governments, utilities, and the people have today, especially in regard to safe, clean water?
In North Carolina, and around the country, growth in the deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) power has accelerated dramatically in recent years. However, from the standpoint of financing the provision of electric power to customers, this growth in solar deployment presents challenges to the traditional business models of investor-owned utilities (IOUs). How will the electric power industry adapt in the coming years, especially from the standpoint of sustainable financing of clean energy?
This week of Thanksgiving, we at the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) are grateful for many things, including work in an interesting field and the opportunity to assist communities with the challenges of sustainable environmental finance. But not all Americans are so fortunate during this holiday time, including when it comes to affording needs such as drinking water, wastewater, electricity, stormwater, and other environmental services.