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An Innovative Financing Tool That Makes Energy Efficiency Affordable

first_imgThis post originally appeared at Ensia. For customers of the Roanoke Electric Cooperative in rural North Carolina, high energy costs are much more than a pesky bill or a grudging expense. “We’re one of the poorest areas of the nation,” says Curtis Wynn, the cooperative’s president and CEO. “We have a lot of low-income individuals who are our members and, quite frankly, a major portion of their monthly budgets are consumed by paying their electricity bills.”RELATED ARTICLESCalifornia Approves a Pilot Program for Energy UpgradesWhy Do People Invest in Home Energy Upgrades?The FHA Problem with PACEHow to Sell Green Upgrades: Energy AuditsCalifornia Lenders Sued Over PACE Financing Wynn says he has seen monthly bills reach nearly $700. But high rates aren’t to blame. It’s often the homes themselves that are the problem. Drafty windows, leaky ducts and poor insulation are common, and that means that much of the heating and cooling it takes to keep them comfortable slips outside, leading customers to use much more energy than they should have to — an estimated 10% to 20%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The simple solution to this problem is an energy efficiency upgrade — patching leaks in ductwork, sealing the frames of windows, laying insulation in attics, replacing old heat pumps. The costs can range from a few hundred dollars to about $8,000, but these interventions can result in energy savings over time that more than offset the expense. It’s a pragmatic investment that lowers costs in the long run. Such an investment, though, can be out of reach for low-income energy customers who have neither the cash to afford the upgrades nor the credit score necessary to borrow what they would cost. But with an innovative financing mechanism, electric utilities like the Roanoke Electric Cooperative are using their borrowing power to finance energy efficiency upgrades in homes at no upfront cost to their customers. “We’re helping the members lower their electricity consumption and ultimately their bills, and we’re lowering our costs for the power that we go out and purchase on their behalf,” says Wynn. Upgrade and save This is possible through what’s called tariffed on-bill financing. Using energy efficiency loans available from the federal government, utilities pay the upfront costs of upgrading a home’s energy efficiency and then amend that home’s newly lowered bill with a tariff charge that pays back the cost of the upgrade month by month. The key to making it work is that the tariff is calculated so the customer’s bill is always lower than it was before the upgrade. About 80% of the monthly savings go toward paying off the cost of the upgrade, and the rest goes to cutting the customer’s costs. In other words, they reimburse the utility for the cost of the upgrades and still pay less for energy each month than they did before the improvements were made. The Roanoke Electric Cooperative program, Upgrade to $ave, is administered by EEtility, an Arkansas-based B corporation that works with utilities to perform energy audits on homes, prescribe efficiency upgrades, and coordinate the contractors that implement them. Tammy Agard, the company’s co-founder, calls this approach a win-win-win that benefits residents, utilities, and the environment. Unlike most debt-based energy efficiency upgrade programs, the tariff-based model links the monthly charges to the address and not the customer, allowing renters to have their energy costs lowered through upgrades without necessarily paying the full cost for them if they move. After the upgrade is paid off, the tariff is lifted and the utility bill associated with that address becomes even lower. This approach, known as “Pay As You Save” and originally developed by the Energy Efficiency Institute in Vermont, has been licensed for use at utilities around the country, from California to Ohio to New Hampshire. “This is an all-inclusive model,” Agard says. “There’s nobody from the brain surgeon to the person cleaning the floor at the hospital who can’t participate in this program.” In 2018, Agard was named a Champion of Energy Efficiency by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) for EEtility’s work helping low-income residents in rural electric cooperatives like Roanoke. Increasingly common, but barriers remain Such on-bill financing programs are increasingly common. Because it’s cheaper for utilities to improve energy efficiency than to build more energy production capacity — and because many states now require them to — utilities have initiated a variety of efficiency upgrade options, including utility-financed loans that tend to raise customers’ bills and programs that pay back upgrade costs through a line item on annual property tax bills. But these efforts haven’t pushed the masses to make energy efficiency upgrades. “It’s a challenging area,” says Martin Kushler, a senior fellow at the ACEEE. He’s been reviewing utility energy efficiency programs across the country since 2003, and says that even though programs are improving, adoption rates for energy upgrades remain low. “While you can pencil out the fact that these improvements are cost-effective in terms of the energy that they save over time, there’s a lot of what we call market barriers to people taking action.” These include financing, lack of time, concerns about dealing with contractors, and a scarcity of information about which programs a customer can use. “Well-designed programs have features that address each of those aspects,” Kushler says. For Wynn at the Roanoke Electric Cooperative, EEtility’s approach checks all those boxes. So far, more than 400 of the cooperative’s 14,000-plus members have received upgrades through the program, and about 1,500 have expressed interest in participating. “We’re getting inquiries every day,” he says. The biggest challenge, Wynn says, is that some homes are in such rough shape that the investment in an energy efficiency upgrade can’t be justified. Even so, he expects to work with EEtility on at least another 500 upgrades within the next few years. EEtility is now working with three utilities in the U.S. and is in talks with about a dozen more. Most are rural electricity cooperatives serving low-income customers, but Agard says this approach to energy efficiency upgrades can work in any market. “We have a program that absolutely can be scaled across the country,” she says. “Because if it’s providing services for our most vulnerable populations then why couldn’t it provide services for everyone?”last_img read more

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‘EC machinery working at behest of BJP’


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Wimbledon 2011: Big battles in store in quarter-finals

first_imgRafael Nadal is all set for his Wimbledon quarter-final clash against Mardy Fish on Wednesday, but if one goes by British media reports, it is as if the defending champion is as good as finished.Watching the world No. 1 battle through the pain barrier to eventually outmanoeuvre Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 7-6(8/ 6), 3-6, 7-6(6/ 4), 6-4 in a high quality match which ended past 9 pm on Monday, it is clear Nadal is going to do whatever it takes to defend his title.At the post-match conference, Nadal did speak about the pain. “I have to get an MRI done. I felt really bad during that half of the first set at 6-5, when I felt I broke my foot. I asked for the trainer at that moment and I didn’t know I would have a chance to continue playing,” said Nadal.However, as the match progressed and the intensity kept rising, Nadal looked fully focussed and played with felicity. “But with the taping, I think we changed a little bit the direction of the support, and probably didn’t hurt me much. But to run to my forehand was very, very tough for me,” said Nadal.The packed audience at the Centre Court, however, was treated to some delectable forehand drives from Nadal in the final set. The way he ripped inside-out forehand winners to leave del Potro stranded in the corner was proof of how badly Nadal wanted to win the match.In the good old days, when Pete Sampras won his seven Wimbledon titles, he also had to keep fighting niggles and injuries. If people think Nadal is not going to be fit against Mardy Fish, they are fooling themselves.advertisementNovad Djokovic faces qualifier Bernard Tomic in Wimbledon quarters. APTop pros do whatever it takes to be on court in a Grand Slam and a day’s rest will do Nadal a lot of good.Way back in 2000, when Sampras won his last Wimbledon title, he had to take all kinds of treatment to stay fight for seven matches in a row. At that time, rather than conventional treatment, Sampras used the Chinese needle therapy to battle pain and eventually defeated Pat Rafter in a thrilling five-set final.The point is, Nadal may not be a 100 per cent fit but with top quality treatment available, he is going to go out and give it his best shot against Mardy Fish, who is the lone American now in fray.”Yeah, Mardy is playing fantastic. I saw him a little bit against Robin Haase. He’s playing at a very, very high level. He’s a dangerous player, so I will try my best to be very competitive on Wednesday. I need be at my hundred percent. If not, it’s going to be impossible against him,” added Nadal.And what about Roger Federer, who badly wants to win the title this time? On Monday night, Federer did drop a set against Mikhail Youzhny before winning 6-7 (5/ 7), 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.But barring the first set, Federer did not have to exert himself in the remaining three sets.The classical backhand volleys were also executed with finesse against an opponent who is not a grass court specialist.”Even though I lost the first set, it was good tennis. I thought overall we played a good match from start to finish. There were good rallies, good atmosphere and it was fun,” said Federer.Roger Federer will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Wimbledon quarter-finals. APLooking ahead at his quarterfinal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Federer said: “Tsonga is a great player. He’s proven it on numerous occasions. I played a really good match I thought against him in Qatar. I think we both played well in the semis there.” Federer says he is going to be ready for the battle. “I think he’s got the weapons to be a huge threat on grass, make a run here. It’s a tough draw, but I’m ready for it,” said Federer.Among the other quarterfinals, Novad Djokovic faces dangerous qualifier Bernard Tomic and Andy Murray plays Feliciano Lopez.Last eightRafael Nadal (ESP x1) vs Mardy Fish (USA x10)Bernard Tomic (AUS) vs Novak Djokovic (SRB x2)Andy Murray (GBR x4) vs Feliciano Lopez (ESP)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA x12) vs Roger Federer (SUI x3)last_img read more

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