Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) introduced a Web-based navigator aimed at helping public and private organizations find financing for their projects.
The Better Buildings Financing Navigator, the DoE says, is designed to enable those in search of financing to “search by topic, or answer a few simple questions to get tailored results, and…easily navigate white papers, technical research, and advice collected from the industry to get the information they need.”
The platform enables users to gain access to the Better Buildings Challenge Financial Ally community which, the DoE says, includes banks and lenders. Through the Better Buildings Challenge, these companies have committed $5.4 billion in financing for energy saving projects.
Energy efficiency projects are very complex. In addition to the inherently complex technology itself, there are complications in finding financing and a potentially dizzying array of state and federal regulations. Finally, there are grants and rebates available to the companies that search them out, which can be confusing. Platforms, such as the one offered by the DoE, are keys in shepherding energy managers and the people to whom they report through this process.
Last summer, Schneider Electric launched the NEO Network. The project seems less directly tied to the financing element:
NEO has three elements, according to Schneider. The “Discover” area features whitepapers, research reports and market intelligence that provide insight on more than 50 countries and regions. The “Connect” element features profiles and community forums that enable those interested in projects to make their needs known and vendors and other providers to identify their skills and capabilities. Finally, the “Exchange” element enables organizations to “collaborate with peers, and search for existing developments based on technology type, project size and location. They can also engage leading cleantech providers to initiate new sustainability projects,” according to Schneider.
Another broad platform is The Rocky Mountain Institutes’ Business Renewable Center. Other platforms, such as Open Energy, are more narrowly targeted.
The complexity of energy upgrades and retrofits – especially when the project features more than one platform or change (such a project that involves solar and storage) – can be intimidating and can lead to organizations bypassing work that needs to be done. Added to the complexity is the fact that financing itself is changing. The most obvious new approach is Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) structures in which home and business owners can finance energy efficiency work over time as a line item on their tax bill. This approach is both controversial and growing.
Energy efficiency has emerged as a central focus of businesses in the past decade. Financing, of course, is a vital element of any project. Information seems to be just as important as finding the name of a potential lender.