This commentary was originally posted on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.
Environmentalists and other policy makers have long touted the economic benefits of investing in energy efficiency and renewable projects. For California, that vision is on course to being realized.
Yesterday, EDF, Citi and Wilson Sonsini held Innovations in Energy Efficiency Finance II, a sequel to the successful conference we hosted in 2011. That year, we discussed several interesting ideas about how we might finance projects. Yesterday we heard from sector leaders on how those ideas are being implemented in California and beyond.
Citi and EDF conceived of this event as an opportunity to bring the energy efficiency and renewable industries together to discuss these opportunities and to build momentum for increased transaction flow. Judging by the makeup of the audience, I think we succeeded. I attend quite a few conferences to discuss energy efficiency and most of them are dominated by fellow public policy types. Yesterday, however, was a different story. Of the 185 attendees, over 2/3 were representing private sector companies in the clean energy or financing business.
As former Governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter noted, “California continues to take bold steps toward clean energy and provide the private sector with clear opportunities to invest in energy efficiency and renewables, critical components of our nation’s economic growth. A key part of achieving our clean energy potential, and creating jobs in America, is ensuring access to quality financing for homes and businesses that want to participate in the new energy economy.”
John Kinney, CEO of Clean Fund, described how he used the recently enabled commercial PACE program to complete $1.4M of financing for Prologis’ corporate headquarters in San Francisco last year.
Commissioner Mark Ferron of the California Public Utilities Commission discussed his hopes for the upcoming On-Bill Repayment (OBR) program for commercial properties that EDF has been advocating. We heard from numerous lenders, solar project developers and energy efficiency vendors that will use this program to expand their businesses in California, which will create a robust marketplace for energy efficiency lending and save energy users money in the process.
Cisco DeVries, CEO of Renewable Funding described another program that the utilities are developing to provide low cost loans for residential retrofits. Citi is expected to provide funding for this effort and Cisco is working with networks of contractors to develop go to market strategies.
Senator Kevin de Leon (D-LA) reminded us we still have some public policy work to do as he is sponsoring bills to extend OBR to residential properties (SB 37) and to provide money for retrofits in schools (SB 39). On the other hand, he challenged the private sector to use the tools already in place to create jobs and reduce emissions. We look forward to helping industry meet that challenge.
I want to thank Citi and Wilson Sonsini, our partners in organizing this conference. In addition to their generous financial support for this conference, Citi has consistently proven their commitment to supporting clean energy finance, working to develop this market despite limited revenue to date. I am optimistic that their expertise in this sector will pay off as this nascent market develops into a viable new asset class. Co-sponsor Wilson Sonsini has been providing pro bono advice for EDF on OBR and I can heartily vouch for their skillset and experience in energy efficiency and renewable finance.
It’s dedication like theirs — along with environmentalists and policy makers — that have given California a leg up on developing clean energy financing solutions and provide a successful blueprint for the rest of the country to follow.