Tag: energy efficiency (Page 2 of 5)

Financing Energy Efficiency for Municipal Electric Utility Customers in North Carolina

Here at the EFC, we are always looking for ways to support the sustainable financing of energy efficiency for communities around the country, including in our home state of North Carolina. In the Old North State, electricity customers are generally served by one of three kinds of utilities: Investor-owned utilities (IOU’s), co-operative utilities (co-ops), and municipal electrical utilities (munis). As part of the EFC’s energy and sustainability financing programs, we are now working on the Rural Community Energy and Economic Capacity Building Program, funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI), to research and develop ways to help electricity customers in three small towns in northeastern North Carolina to have greater access to energy efficiency (EE) financing alternatives. Two of these three towns have their own municipal electric utilities.

This brings us to the key questions of this blog post: What are utilities already doing in North Carolina to promote and finance EE for their customers? What other alternatives exist? And why does this matter in the first place?

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Consumer Considerations for On-Bill Finance Programs

On-bill financing is receiving a lot of attention as an innovative strategy to improve energy efficiency make people’s homes more comfortable. One of the major advantages of on-bill financing is that it can be offered to property owners who can’t cover the one-time investment in energy efficiency upgrades or aren’t able to qualify for traditional financing options. In this way, on-bill financing programs can be positive for consumers, but as with any consumer financing product, there are potential issues that program administrators should consider, including potential consumer concerns. In some cases, consumer advocacy groups have called into question whether sufficient consumer safeguards were in place to protect consumers within these programs.

For those interested in legal considerations around on-bill finance programs, there isn’t much reported case law to consider. This may be because either the programs are so new that there hasn’t been time for cases to be brought to trial or appealed. In this post, we briefly discuss some of the consumer issues that may arise in the process of designing or implementing an on-bill finance program.

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Turning Down the Heat: A Collaborative Effort to Reduce Energy Bills

There’s no doubt about it. June was HOT. And while extreme temperatures in both summer and winter can make outdoor activities unbearable, they can also send electric utility bills skyrocketing across most of North Carolina and place high demands on the state’s electric utility infrastructure. As heating and cooling equipment are pushed to the max, the demands are made even more significant due to inefficiently insulated and poorly weatherized houses which can cause homes to lose cool air as quickly as it is generated. But the cost to weatherize a home can make energy efficiency improvements unaffordable – particularly for homeowners who are already burdened with basic housing costs that can outweigh their limited income. With the aim of providing these homeowners with a solution that will reduce their energy bills and improve home comfort, a collaborative working group has recently been formed by leading energy advisors in the Southeast. Working with multiple stakeholders across the state, the North Carolina On-Bill Working Group seeks to facilitate the development of programs that educate homeowners about energy efficiency and put financing easily within reach for all income levels.

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Come Together: Breaking Through Energy Efficiency Financing Barriers

SEEFN_WordleIf you ask the average home or business owner about energy efficiency improvements, she will most likely say something about turning off lights or replacing an older appliance.  She might even discuss a recent energy audit or the installation of programmable thermostats.  But few property owners will be able to detail the deep energy efficiency retrofits that are needed or planned for their building.  And even fewer will be able to tell you how to finance the cost.

An understanding of the depth and value of possible energy efficiency measures and how to finance them are two of the largest barriers facing the energy efficiency industry today – particularly in the Southeast, where high utility bills disproportionally impact low- and moderate-income families.  Something must be done to bring the energy efficiency industry together to educate, share best practices and pilot innovative ideas to maximize the impact of energy efficiency investment in the Southeast.  That something is the Southeast Energy Efficiency Finance Network.

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Big City, Bright Lights, Energy Efficient Buildings

Empire State BuildingLast week, my family and I traveled to New York City. There are hundreds of things to do and see in the city that never sleeps. While we may not have seen or done them all, we did see some fantastic and spectacular sights.  When asked what they thought of the city itself, my daughters responded using various adjectives including “big,” “bright,” and – my favorite – “lots of windows.”  Without realizing it, they had hit on a very important characteristic of the city.  With over 350 million square feet of office space and over 43 percent of buildings built before 1945, commercial space in New York City uses a lot of energy.  It is big, it is bright and it does indeed have a lot of very old (and most likely drafty) windows.  In other words, it is full of energy efficiency retrofit opportunities.
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