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New Protocol Will Help Create Investor Confidence in Small-Scale Energy Efficiency Retrofits

##logoBy: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant

The Investor Confidence Project (ICP), which aims to bring transparency and accountability to the energy efficiency market by introducing a system of standardization, is pleased to announce the release of the Energy Performance Protocol for Targeted Commercial projects.  Unlike whole building retrofits, targeted commercial projects are typically projects that can upgrade a single measure, such as lighting or windows, or multiple measures that are very basic. The protocols standardize how projects are baselined, engineered, installed, operated and measured, and are aimed at boosting investor confidence in the resulting savings.

The Targeted Commercial Protocol complements the ICP’s two existing Energy Performance Protocols: 1) Large Commercial Protocol, which involves a whole building retrofit greater than $1 million and with annual energy savings of more than 20%, and 2) Standard Commercial Protocol, which is a whole building retrofit priced at below $1 million.

The Targeted Commercial Protocol further develops the ICP family of protocols and addresses the range of project types increasingly common in the growing energy efficiency retrofit marketplace. Reflecting market realities for smaller projects, this protocol was developed in collaboration with industry experts, including organizations that are part of the ICP Ally Network.  It strikes a balance between the need to minimize overhead for less complex projects, while maintaining the necessary rigor to attract investment for smaller projects.  Read More »

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EDF’s Energy Efficiency Protocols Gain Traction

By: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant, Environmental Defense Fund

Source: Spark Energy

Source: Spark Energy

Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) Investor Confidence Project (ICP) aims to bring transparency and accountability to the energy efficiency market by introducing a system of standardization. Traditionally, most energy efficiency analyses are done by the companies selling retrofit services to commercial building owners and investors, resulting in biased results that do not always ensure return on investment (ROI).  Additionally, inconsistencies in the methodology for arriving at these ROI metrics have created barriers to standardizing a measure of success for energy retrofits.

For the first time, ICP’s Energy Performance Protocols were used to leverage financing for a $2 million office building retrofit in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  This new model could accelerate the vast potential of energy efficiency retrofits in commercial buildings.

ICP’s protocols have been developed with broad stakeholder participation including engineers, industry allies, financial market participants, insurers, regulators and utilities.  The protocols aim to significantly increase stakeholder confidence in the resulting savings by: Read More »

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Don’t Miss Three Important, Upcoming Webinars from EDF’s Investor Confidence Project

By: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant, Environmental Defense Fund


Nearly 40% of U.S. energy is consumed by both residential and commercial buildings, which emit more than a third of our country’s greenhouse gases. Realizing all of the available cost-effective energy efficiency savings would require roughly $279 billion of investment, resulting in more than $1 trillion in energy savings over ten years.

Environmental Defense Fund’s Investor Confidence Project (ICP) opens up energy efficiency to investment markets by laying the foundation necessary to enable organizations to tap into this vast potential. This means turning energy efficiency upgrades in the commercial building sector into an asset that can be bought and traded, much like stocks and bonds.  By developing a straightforward set of protocols that define a clear road-map for upgrades, ICP creates an investment-quality asset class whose risks and returns are transparent. Ultimately, large-scale adoption of the ICP framework will reduce transaction costs and engineering overhead, while increasing the reliability and consistency of savings.

ICP will be hosting a series of webinars targeted at specific stakeholders in the energy efficiency sector, and strongly encourage individuals and organizations interested in the future of the energy efficiency industry to attend.  With the assistance and feedback of industry leaders, investors and programs, ICP has developed a range of Energy Performance Protocols tailored to market needs and project types that will reduce transaction costs, manage performance risk and increase deal flow.  Our webinar schedule this fall will focus on how these protocols can create value for individual projects, organizations and the energy efficiency industry as a whole.

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Leveraging Data To Move Markets

Recently, I blogged here about the fact that significant improvements in the efficiency of existing buildings – a critical and potentially cost-effective part of our carbon reduction strategy – are not easy to achieve, and described how doubts about the likely success of energy upgrade projects are a barrier to “scaling up” efficiency in buildings.  I also touched on EDF’s efforts to change that.

Today I’m happy to report further on some of the progress being made toward a future in which energy efficiency (EE) project originators and funders will have greater reason to expect success in energy upgrades involving existing buildings.

Last week, EDF partnered with Bloomberg New Energy Finance to host ‘Leveraging Data to Move Markets,’ a half-day discussion among government, real estate, Wall Street, real estate entrepreneurs and NGOs, with participation from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the White House Center for Environmental Quality (CEQ).  The discussion focused on DOE and EDF efforts to address key data and standardization requirements to meet the needs of private capital markets to facilitate comprehensive energy efficiency projects.

It was clear based on the conversation throughout the day that investors and other market players are looking for accurate, reliable, and transparent forecasts of savings from EE projects and related loans in order to manage risk associated with investing.  The lack of standards for data and for the various practices that make up the lifecycle of an EE retrofit are not only affecting the ability to rely on the savings being delivered, but also impeding the origination of projects and creating significant transaction costs to all players. 

As Jonathan Powers described at the opening of the meeting, the White House’s CEQ is keenly interested in stimulating discussions among private market actors and parties in possession of data, with an eye toward how data sets can be leveraged to achieve purposes above and beyond the capabilities of the entity that collected it in the first place.  The DOE is actively engaged in creating data sets with the potential to change the landscape in which energy efficiency projections are made.

Ron Herbst of Deutsche Bank observed during the day’s opening panel that “Data informs where you should hunt for opportunity.”  He also noted that auditable energy performance data would be a substantial step forward, and emphasized the power of transparency to correct malfunctioning markets.  Jeff Pitkin, of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA, a New York State authority with a mandate to run energy efficiency programs), seconded the need for transparency. Mr. Pitkin noted that the ability to ground projections in something that is “seen as a credible process,” and transparency with respect to the distinct track records of different market actors, would be powerful levers for building better programs and making prospective projects more attractive to property owners.  Angela Ferrante of Energi, an insurance company seeking to underwrite performance risk in energy upgrade projects, similarly stressed that the variability among project proposals is itself a real barrier to efficient underwriting. Read More »

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Making It Real – Energy Efficiency Upgrade Project Performance In The Real World

While codes, standards, and an increasingly energy-savvy marketplace push new buildings toward higher energy standards, existing building stock presents a conundrum.  Upgrading a building to meet higher energy standards than those for which it was originally designed is a tricky business.

McKinsey and others have identified energy efficiency in buildings, particularly large buildings, as one of the most powerful, and potentially cost-effective, opportunities for greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.  However, even energy conservation measures that are “expected” to “pay for themselves” fairly quickly are not implemented universally.   Why?

There are myriad barriers to scaling energy efficiency, but one that gets little attention is the question of how reasonable and achievable upfront energy saving projections actually are.  This is remarkable, because knowing the savings will actually happen is incredibly important for ensuring that energy cost savings streams actually flow to the parties who pay for them – thus making billions of dollars available to pay for them as well ensuring that load reductions resulting from energy efficiency projects can be relied upon by electric system planners and that the GHG reductions we are counting on actually happen.

In a complex world, of course, it would be unreasonable to expect outcomes to match predictions perfectly. And, if the variability consisted of most outcomes coming pretty close to matching predictions, with overperforming and underperforming projects distributed evenly along a familiar-looking bell curve, the unpredictability of individual projects could be managed to some extent by combining them into portfolios.  Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case.  Although data about energy efficiency project performance is scarce, the little that is publicly available suggests that outcomes do not conform to a neat bell curve, and, worse, systematic underperformance may be the norm. 

I’ve explored some of the reasons for this variability and underperformance – and described EDF’s efforts to foster the conditions for a better track record – by convening parties engaged in various aspects of the upgrade process (our Investor Confidence Project)  in a Snapshot column published yesterday in the newsletter of the Sallan Foundation, The Torchlight.

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