Author: Jennifer Weiss (Page 3 of 3)

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Paying the Bill for Energy Efficiency

Jen Weiss is Senior Finance Analyst at the Environmental Finance Center.

There is a small hole in the ceiling leading into the attic of Mr. Smith’s single-family home and the windows are a bit drafty.  In the summer, the family’s 15 year old air conditioning unit runs 24 hours a day trying to keep Mr. Smith and his family cool, and in the winter the electric base boards crank out heat to keep them warm.  The Smiths try not to keep the temperature in the house too high or too low, but their monthly electricity bills still approach $500 in some months.  The family is finding it increasingly difficult to pay their utility bill each month, but unlike cable or telephone service, turning off their electricity is not an option. 

The Smith family is, of course, a hypothetical example.  Unfortunately, they are an example of a trend that is becoming more frequently found across the Southeast and likely across the nation.  Low- to moderate-income families with older homes are finding it difficult to pay their monthly utility bills.  As electric rates continue to go up, these homeowners are turning to their utilities for help.  Help with ideas on how to reduce energy use, help with weatherization of their homes and help with their utility bills.  And many utilities are listening – and making changes. Continue reading

Monetizing Climate Change: Making Environmental Decisions Easier on Your Wallet


by Jen Weiss

Jen Weiss is a Finance Analyst at the Environmental Finance Center. 

Mention the words ‘climate change’ and you will likely get a variety of responses. Nationally, opinions range from sentiments like former Vice President Al Gore’s declaration in 2005 that “we are facing a global climate crisis” to geology scientist Martin Keeley’s 2004 statement that “global warming is indeed a scam, perpetrated by scientists with vested interests.”  Despite all of the controversy, last month President Barack Obama laid out his own views on climate change:  “Our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind … those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it – they’re busy dealing with it.”

Whether or not you are in agreement that climate change is real or what the long term effects of it may be, one thing is true – it is a huge topic of conversation.  And when it comes to conversations about climate change, it isn’t just the environment that gets top billing.  Often, the climate discussion comes down to pure economics.  President Obama’s June 2013 Climate Action Plan is focused on reducing carbon emissions that cause climate change and affect public health.  One of the three primary ways he plans to do this is to cut carbon “pollution” – similar to the way we have reduced pollution from toxins like lead, mercury and arsenic – so Americans can “protect the health of our children and move our economy toward American-made clean energy sources that will create good jobs and lower home energy bills.”

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Getting to Yes? Energy Efficiency Loan Programs in the Southeast

Jen Weiss is a Finance Analyst at the Environmental Finance Center. 

Game dice with Yes, No, and Maybe on the Face

Don’t gamble with program design

Yes, energy efficiency is the low hanging fruit of the energy world.  And yes, the southeastern United States has even been referred to as the Saudi Arabia of energy efficiency (a quote originally attributable to Dr. Marilyn A. Brown, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a Professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy). And yes, it would seem likely that homeowners in the hot, humid southeastern states would be jumping at any chance to reduce their high utility bills during the hot summer months. But for some reason, despite all indicators pointing to “yes,” homeowners in many areas of the country have given a clear response of “no” when presented with an opportunity to finance energy efficiency retrofits with low-interest rate loans.  Which is leaving many analysts in the finance industry, including myself, scratching our heads and wondering “why don’t more homeowners take advantage of these great, low rates?”

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Revolving Credit – All Grown Up

Jen Weiss is a Finance Analyst at the Environmental Finance Center. 

Quick … what do you think of when you hear the word “revolving?”  A revolving door?  A revolving restaurant?  Perhaps a revolving credit card?

In the environmental finance world, the term “revolving” is being paired up with the equally unassuming term “green” to create an effective energy efficiency and renewable energy financing tool called a green revolving fund.  At its core, it is a revolving credit instrument, operating much like a credit card which, according to Merriam-Webster, is a pretty straight forward financial tool: “a credit which may be used repeatedly up to the limit specified after partial or total repayments have been made.” But a green revolving fund is not your everyday Visa or Mastercard with a $5,000 upper limit.  It is the more sophisticated older sibling of the credit card, the sibling that has grown up and gone off to college. And while it is there, it is making a significant contribution to the bottom line.

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What a Difference a Rate Makes

Jen Weiss is a Finance Analyst and co-author Jeff Hughes is the Director of the Environmental Finance Center.

At the time this blog post is being written, the holiday season is in full swing – cities have set up their holiday lighting and decorations, stores are offering all sorts of sales and financing offers (no money down…), and consumers everywhere are evaluating purchase decisions.  If you are like us, I’m sure this all makes you think about LED street lighting. No? Let us explain.

At least the street lights are LEDs?

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