Guest post by Brian Dabson
Mobile homes are a vital but generally unloved part of North Carolina’s affordable housing stock. They come to public attention in times of extreme weather, particularly high winds and floods. Their condition and location make them especially vulnerable to damage, and often their occupants—the elderly, people with disabilities, and the poor—are least able to cope with the consequences. This blog post looks at some of the challenges and opportunities for improving conditions using energy efficiency initiatives for low-income North Carolinians, particularly in our more rural counties.
Earlier this week, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) released a technical brief, “Energy Efficiency Program Financing: Where it comes from, where it goes, and how it gets there.” Financing specifically refers to capital that is used to cover project upfront costs but then paid back over time (unlike rebates or other incentives). This characteristic of financing programs also makes them ideal tools to amplify the impact of limited amounts of public funding for energy efficiency, by recycling the funds as they are repaid for further projects, and by using the public funds to attract greater amounts of private capital.
The research highlights several intriguing (but expected) takeaways and a few surprises, but bypasses one key insight.
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.