Tag: financing (Page 3 of 3)

QECBs: A Cheaper Way for Local Governments to Fund Energy Efficiency (and Renewable) Projects

Michael Chasnow is a Finance Analyst with the Environmental Finance Center.

Qualified energy conservation bonds (QECBs) are an exciting tool that states, counties and cities can use to cheaply finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects within their jurisdictions. QECBs are similar to Build America Bonds (“BABs”) in that the interest on QECBs is taxable but the federal government offers a direct cash subsidy to the bond issuer to subsidize the interest costs. The subsidy on QECBs is twice as large as the BAB subsidy at about 4% (4.29% as of Aug. 21, 2012), making QECBs an extremely low-cost financing option for state and local government issuers. For more on the QECB essentials, check out DSIRE’s detailed description.

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“One Oar in the Water”

Daniel Kolomeets-Darovsky is an Environmental Finance Analyst with the Environmental Finance Center.

stephen schiller / Free Photos


Defining a resilient business model for water utilities is no easy task in a time of unprecedented economic conditions, scare capital, and increasingly volatile environmental conditions. Everything seems to fly in the face of it, let alone the necessary informational foundation needed to see what’s really going on behind-the-scenes. How do we even know, for instance, that residential water use is declining in a place like North Carolina? What about how well your local utility is running its business, as measured by money it takes in versus money it spends (operating revenues versus operating expenditures)?

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Finding the Right Grant for State and Tribal Wetland Programs

Glenn Barnes is a senior project director at the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina.  Glenn is the project manager of the Sustainable Finance for Wetland Programs project funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

If I am leading a workshop or giving a presentation on any environmental finance topic, most likely at some point these five words will leave my mouth: “Grants are not sustainable finance.”

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Saving Energy in Philadelphia: Strategies to Spur Residential Retrofits

Michael Chasnow is a Finance Analyst with the Environmental Finance Center.

Although there are dozens of city and state-led residential energy efficiency and renewable energy (EERE) retrofit programs across the country, little research has focused on how individual homeowners perceive these retrofit programs or decide whether to conduct energy efficiency retrofits. Not surprisingly, some programs thrive (such as PA’s Keystone HELP with 6,000+ customers and $40+ mill. in loans), while others flounder. We need to better understand how residential homeowners decide whether to conduct an EERE, from messaging to financing to program process.

Accordingly, with two local partners, AFC First and the Energy Coordinating Agency, the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina surveyed 440+ residential homeowners in the Philadelphia metro area that are potential participants in the EERE retrofit program EnergyWorks to learn more about key drivers behind homeowners’ decisions to conduct or not conduct EERE retrofits. Below are the three key questions we asked, and some of the key takeaways of the study.

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The Increasing Need to Address Customer Affordability

Stacey Isaac Berahzer is a Senior Project Director for the Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina, and works from a satellite office in Georgia.

Water prices are rising faster than any other utility service nationally. Of course, there is good reason for this – the industry has a large backlog of infrastructure needs.

While options such as public private partnerships represent promising areas for financing this backlog, it is mainly water customers who will be writing monthly checks to pay for these infrastructure projects.

With all indicators pointing toward a continued increase in water bills, the historic underpricing of water seems to be slowly righting itself. But, with this comes a greater need for utilities to consider the affordability issues of low income customers. Defining customer affordability has been a tough nut to crack. Perhaps the most quoted affordability threshold is 2.5% of median household income (MHI), but this “rule of thumb” has been criticized for blanketing small pockets of poverty within a census block. On the other hand, the same threshold is cited as sometimes pressuring a water utility to keep rates too low, while many of the utility’s customers can easily handle a higher rate. The bottom line is that defining affordability at the national scale is not easy!

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