Better Buildings Financing Navigator

Financing Navigator Resources

Want to read more? This page provides a collection of resources on financing options for energy efficiency and renewable energy, all in one place. They include fact sheets about each financing option, high-level overviews of the market, white papers and other publications designed for specific sectors, and information on financing policies and programs in your area.

Fact Sheets

What is Efficiency-As-A-Service?

Efficiency-as-a-service is a pay-for-performance, off-balance sheet financing solution that allows customers to implement energy and water efficiency projects with no upfront capital expenditure. The provider pays for project development, construction, and maintenance costs. Once a project is operational, the customer makes service payments that are based on actual energy savings or other equipment performance metrics, resulting in immediate reduced operating expenses. The energy services agreement (ESA) is the most common type of arrangement, but other models such as lumens-as-a-service and energy subscription agreements are also in use.

What is Lease Financing?

A lease is a simple financing structure that allows a customer to use energy efficiency, renewable energy, or other generation equipment without purchasing it outright. The two most common types are on-balance sheet capital leases and off-balance sheet operating leases. Solar leases are a unique structure available for solar energy projects, and public sector organizations can also take advantage of tax-exempt leases. At the end of the lease, the customer may have the option to purchase the equipment, return the equipment, or extend the contract, depending on the type of lease used. Lease financing is offered by many equipment manufacturers and vendors as well as third-party lessors. (Note that operating leases must be reported on balance sheet as of 2019-2020.)

What is Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy?

Commercial property-assessed clean energy (CPACE) is a financing structure in which building owners borrow money for energy efficiency, renewable energy, or other projects and make repayments via an assessment on their property tax bill. The financing arrangement then remains with the property even if it is sold, facilitating long-term investments in building performance. CPACE may be funded by private investors or government programs, but it is only available in states with enabling legislation and active programs.

What is an Energy Savings Performance Contract?

Under an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC), an energy service company (ESCO) coordinates installation and maintenance of efficiency equipment in a customer’s facilities and is paid from the associated energy savings. The ESCO typically provides a savings guarantee. The improvements are usually owned by the customer and may be installed with little or no upfront cost if the ESPC is financed. ESPCs are suited for larger ($1 million+), more complex projects with high upfront costs, though they have sometimes been used for smaller projects. ESPCs are also called energy performance contracts (EPCs).

What is On-Bill Financing/Repayment?

On-bill financing (OBF) and repayment (OBR) are financing options in which a utility or private lender supplies capital to a customer to fund energy efficiency, renewable energy, or other generation projects and is repaid through regular payments on an existing utility bill. The benefits of OBF/OBR include low-to-zero interest rates, simple contract structure, and streamlined repayment. However, OBF and OBR are only available in regions where utilities support on-bill programs.

What is Loan or Debt Financing?

Customers can borrow money directly from banks or other lenders to pay for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other generation projects. The customer must then arrange the purchase, installation, and management of equipment by a third-party contractor or in-house staff. Loan financing is offered by many equipment manufacturers, vendors, and contractors as well as third-party banks and lenders. Loan terms and availability may be affected by the creditworthiness of the customer, limitations on debt that can be taken on the balance sheet, or current debts held by the customer.

What is Internal Funding?

Internal funding refers to the use of an organization’s existing financial resources to pay for energy efficiency, renewable energy, or other generation projects, rather than seeking external financing. This is often the most simple and direct method for funding projects, and it allows the organization to capture the full financial benefits of energy projects rather than paying a portion to a financing provider. Methods for internal funding include operating or capital budget expenditures, self-funded energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs), capital investment funds, revolving loan funds, and internal carbon pricing.

What is a Power Purchase Agreement?

A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is an arrangement in which a third-party developer installs, owns, and operates an energy system on a customer’s property. The customer then purchases the system's electric output for a predetermined period. A PPA allows the customer to receive stable and often low-cost electricity with no upfront cost, while also enabling the owner of the system to take advantage of tax credits and receive income from the sale of electricity. Though most commonly used for renewable energy systems, PPAs can also be applied to other energy technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP).

General Financing Resources

This section contains resources related to energy efficiency and renewable energy financing broadly.

Current Practices in Efficiency Financing: An Overview for State and Local Governments
This white paper provides a comprehensive overview of the energy efficiency financing landscape.

Emerging Opportunities and Challenges in Financing Solar
This white paper examines the key topics that must be addressed to achieve the SunShot Initiative's price-reduction and deployment goals.

Federal Financing Programs for Clean Energy
This white paper serves as a guide to U.S. government programs that support the development of clean energy projects in the U.S. and abroad.

Information for Lenders
This webpage serves as a repository for technical assistance and other relevant information for lenders interested in energy efficiency.

Innovations and Opportunities in Energy Efficiency Finance: 2nd Edition (2012)3rd Edition (2013)4th Edition (2014)
This collection of white papers summarize common efficiency financing options with a focus on challenges, legal considerations, and opportunities.

Show Me The Money
This paper briefly reviews primary internal and external efficiency financing strategies and summarizes key market barriers, sectors, and stakeholders.

United States Building Energy Efficiency Retrofits
This white paper provides insights into financing options, markets, and policy impacts.

Sector-Specific Financing Resources

This section contains energy efficiency and renewable energy financing resources designed specifically for certain sectors. To view the resources for a sector, click on the title to expand the accordion.

Affordable Multifamily

This white paper provides an overview of energy efficiency financing programs nationwide—in both the single family and multifamily sectors—that are reaching LMI households.

This article reviews the financing efforts made in low income communities.

Financing Energy Efficiency Retrofits of Affordable Multifamily Buildings Community Investment Corporation, Elevate Energy, California Housing Partnership Corporation

This paper reviews the challenges facing the multifamily housing energy efficiency market and the opportunity that tools such as on-bill repayment provide to finance energy efficiency retrofits for the subsidized affordable multifamily market.

SAHLLN Resource Hub Energy Efficiency for All

The SAHLLN Resource Hub is a central repository for information on financing energy and water efficiency and renewable energy in multifamily affordable housing properties.

This report identifies the most promising strategies state policymakers might consider using to finance PV for LMI customers in the multifamily sector.

Commercial

This list is a basic primer of ways to finance efficiency retrofits in commercial real estate space.

This white paper examines the opportunitues to finance energy efficiency projects for commercial buildings through a survey of 30 national, regional, and local commercial lenders.

Financial Management Retail Industry Leaders Association

This webpage is a suite of educational resources to reduce financing barriers for energy projects and achieve energy and cost savings.

This white paper explores the economic opportunity associated with small commercial buildings measuring 50,000 square feet or less.

This guide is intended to help retail energy professionals think strategically about the project proposal and budgeting process.

This white paper outlines the benefits of PACE Financing for commercial real estate organizations.

This white paper examines the tradeoffs among financing methods for businesses installing onsite photovoltaics (PV).

Government

This is a guide to all customer-facing financing products—products offered by a lender directly to a borrower—used to pay for energy efficiency.

This fact sheet outlines accounting practices for energy efficiency financing options.

Local Governments' Role in Energy Project Financing Institute for Market Transformation

This guide aims to help cities weigh various energy efficiency finance strategies and choose policies best tailored to the individual needs of each local market.

Pay for Energy Initiatives Department of Energy

This website provides an overview of financing for state and local governments that are designing and implementing energy financing programs to serve public facilities to lead by example, as well as private buildings in the industrial, commercial, and residential markets.

The State and Local Energy Efficiency Action Network (SEE Action) offers resources, discussion forums, and technical assistance to state and local decision makers as they provide low-cost, reliable energy to their communities through energy efficiency.

Healthcare

Energy Efficiency Financing for Hospitals American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Healthcare Without Harm, Practice Greenhealth

This guide highlights some of the options available for the healthcare sector and provides case studies as well as resources that offer further information.

Energy Efficiency Financing Options Citi, Practice Greenhealth

This powerpoint compares various energy efficiency financing options for the healthcare sector.

Higher Education

This white paper outlines energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) in the higher education sector.

This guide focuses primarily on financing mechanisms and key steps to take for investment into sustainable energy projects for small colleges.

Overview of Energy Financing in the Higher Education Sector

This primer presents a detailed overview of financing for energy projects in the higher education sector.

K-12

Energy Efficiency Programs in K-12 Schools Environmental Protection Agency

This guide outlines energy efficiency financing options for K-12 schools.

Financing Energy Upgrades for K-12 School Districts Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

This guide focuses on clean energy financing options for school administrators, facility managers, and other K-12 school decision makers who are considering investments in high performance school projects.

K-12 Schools Financing Webinar Department of Energy

This powerpoint reviews the use of bonds for energy efficiency retrofits as well as considerations for private financing in K-12 schools.

This primer explains how schools can use ESPCs to save money by improving building energy efficiency and reducing operating costs while increasing occupant comfort and productivity.

This white paper focuses on financial options developed specifically for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, including the traditional methods of financing capital investments at schools.

Multifamily

This is an interview transcript with Jack Markowski, president and CEO of Community Investment Corporation.

This white paper examines different finance methods available for the mulltifamily sector.

This powerpoint highlights options for financing renewables in the multifamily sector.

This website provides information on mortgage financing for energy and water projects.

Non-profit

This white paper provides insights into the needs, appetite, and capacity of nonprofits to implement energy upgrades in community facilities.

Programs and Policies by Location

This section contains resources related to energy efficiency and renewable energy financing policies and programs in specific regions, states, and cities.

Coalition for Green Capital
This website includes information about green bank programs in the U.S. and globally.

DSIRE Database
This searchable database provides information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the U.S.

On-bill Financing: Cost-Free Energy Efficiency Improvements
This website provides information on state legislation relevant to on-bill financing.

PACE Programs Near You
This graphic and database provides a full listing of all residential and commercial PACE programs across the U.S.

State Energy Loan Fund Map
This map provides an overview of state energy loan fund programs, as well as a suite of state energy resources.

Tax Credits, Rebates, & Savings
This database from the Department of Energy provides a list of available tax credits, rebates, and other savings opportunities nationwide.

TIF Districts
This website provides information on tax increment financing (TIF) districts.