Energy Efficiency Financing

Financing is one of several linked strategies to drive and enable customer demand for energy efficiency. Financing alone does not lead to energy savings, but it may be an effective tool for helping customers overcome the high up-front costs of a range of energy efficiency investments.

Photo of a calculator and financial document

Key Focus Areas

Broad customer access to attractive capital can enable widespread adoption of energy efficiency improvements by scaling and leveraging secondary markets, reflecting a true assessment of risk, providing more liquidity, and reducing borrowing costs. SEE Action has identified four key focus areas in financing:

  • Improve Data Access. Improve data collection practices and access to quality data on energy efficiency financing product performance.
  • Improve Program Design. Help energy efficiency financing program administrators align program strategies with customer needs, and share lessons learned from experiments in energy efficiency financing program design.
  • Support Effective Financing Tools. Explore whether novel financing tools and capital sources are more effective than conventional ones in addressing the unique barriers of energy efficiency financing.
  • Clarify Regulatory Treatment of Financing. Identify how state public utility commissions are treating financing initiatives under the regulatory framework, share successful approaches.

Key Initiatives

SEE Action is currently working on several initiatives that will provide state and local entities and their partners with the tools and information they need to design and implement effective energy efficiency financing programs. These include:  

  • Developing a series of primers for state decision makers and financial institutions on fundamental energy efficiency financing topics, including program design and credit enhancements
  • Identifying and addressing regulatory challenges that must be overcome in order for ratepayer-funded EE financing initiatives to deliver on their potential
  • Reviewing existing practices for data collection for energy efficiency financing programs, and identifying high-priority needs and uses for finance program data
  • Reviewing existing on-bill programs and program design choices including disconnection and meter attachment, sources of capital, underwriting criteria, and eligible measures.

Connect with Us about Energy Efficiency Financing

Contact our Experts
  • Johanna Zetterberg, U.S. Department of Energy,
    Financing Solutions Working Group, Staff Lead

Guidance Documents from the Network

Energy Efficiency Financing for Low- and Moderate-Income Households: Current State of the Market, Issues, and Opportunities

Ensuring that low- and moderate-income (LMI) households have access to energy efficiency is equitable, provides energy savings as a resource to meet energy needs, and can support multiple policy goals, such as affordable energy, job creation, and improved public health. Although the need is great, many LMI households may not be able to afford efficiency improvements or may be inhibited from adopting efficiency for other reasons. Decision-makers across the country are currently exploring the challenges and potential solutions to ramping up adoption of efficiency in LMI households, including the use of financing.

Photo of the Making It Count report.Making it Count: Understanding the Value of Energy Efficiency Financing Programs Funded by Utility Customers

This report lays the groundwork for a dialogue to explore regulatory and policy mechanisms for ensuring that efficiency financing initiatives provide value for society and protection for consumers. Featuring case studies of Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, California, and Maryland, Making it Count explores emerging questions that jurisdictions will need to answer when considering an increased reliance on financing, including:

  • Can financing be placed in a regulatory context that preserves accountability while providing sufficient flexibility to program administrators and customers?

  • Can the tools that have been used to screen traditional energy efficiency programs for cost-effectiveness and assess potential savings and impacts be adapted in ways that make them work for energy efficiency financing programs?

The California Legislature asked the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA), in consultation with the California Public Utilities Commission, to work with stakeholders to develop criteria for a comparative assessment of energy efficiency financing programs available in California, including PACE and on bill financing. We found Making It Count: Case Studies in Evaluating Energy Efficiency Financing Programs to be directly onpoint to the work CAEATFA's been tasked to complete and very meaningful to the policy issues at hand.

- Deana Carillo, CAEATFA
Cover of Accessing Secondary MarketsAccessing Secondary Markets as a Capital Source for Energy Efficiency Finance Programs: Program Design Considerations for Policymakers and Administrators

Efficient access to capital from secondary markets—reselling energy loans to investors to replenish program funds­—is being advanced as an important enabler of the energy efficiency industry “at scale.” However, the role that secondary markets can play in bringing energy efficiency to scale is largely untested. Only a handful of secondary market transactions of energy efficiency loan products have been executed to date, and it is too soon to draw robust conclusions from these deals. At the same time, energy efficiency program administrators and policymakers face near-term decisions on whether and how to access secondary markets as part of their energy efficiency deployment strategy.

energy efficiency financing programEnergy Efficiency Financing Program Implementation Primer

Provides key considerations for policymakers, energy efficiency program administrators, and program partners om implementing successful energy efficiency financing programs for existing buildings.

credit enhancement overview guideCredit Enhancement Overview Guide

Provides considerations for state and local policymakers and energy efficiency program administrators designing and implementing successful credit enhancement strategies for residential and commercial buildings.

financing energy improvementsFinancing Energy Improvements on Utility Bills: Market Updates and Key Program Design Considerations for Policymakers and Administrators

Provides an overview of the current state of on-bill programs and provides actionable insights on key program design considerations for on-bill lending programs. States and utilities are increasingly turning to on-bill financing to stretch their limited efficiency program dollars and to overcome a number of barriers to the uptake of energy improvements in residential and non-residential properties.

finance programsEnergy Efficiency Finance Programs: Use Case Analysis to Define Data Needs and Guidelines

This report takes a foundational step toward the establishment of common data collection practices for energy efficiency lending. The authors reviewed existing practices for data collection for energy efficiency financing programs and, based on discussions with various stakeholders, identified high-priority needs, characterized potential uses for finance program data, and identified use cases that describe how stakeholders use data for key objectives and actions. 

The California investor-owned utilities are looking at strategies to improve our energy efficiency financing programs. The information and perspectives in this document were very helpful in our planning efforts to assess the marketplace opportunities in this area. Accessing information on the cutting edge of program development greatly helped our California statewide team get focused and aligned on the key issues, from identifying our evaluation data needs at the front end to standardizing our data requests across multiple programs at the back end.

- Andy Fessel, Pacific Gas and Electric Company
Guide for States: Energy Efficiency as a Least-Cost Strategy to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution, and Meet Energy Needs in the Power Sector

A practical document that presents established policy and program “pathways” to advance demand-side energy efficiency, including:

  • Ratepayer-funded energy efficiency
  • Building energy codes
  • Local government-led efforts, such as building performance policies
  • State-led efforts, such as energy savings performance contracting
  • Commercial and industrial private sector approaches, such as strategic energy management and combined heat and power.

The guide presents case studies of successful regional, state, and local approaches to energy efficiency with sources for more information, resources to understand the range of expected savings from energy efficiency, and common protocols for documenting savings.

State and local air pollution control agencies will find SEE Action's Guide for States: Energy Efficiency as a Least-Cost Strategy to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Air Pollution, and Meet Energy Needs in the Power Sector to be a very helpful resource. The guide provides a clear and credible overview of how states and localities are putting energy efficiency to work for them, and what they are getting out of their investment. These approaches give air agencies a broader set of tools to meet air quality standards, protect public health, and achieve multipollutant emission reductions at a low cost.

- Bill Becker, National Association of Clean Air Agencies