Thursday, April 6, 2023

Financing Public Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Projects

In this webinar, presented live on April 5, 2023, we learned more about the financing tools available to implement EE and RE projects in your community or school.


  • Introduction to Financial Solutions: Savings-Driven Financing and No-new Spend, No-upfront Capital Solutions - Adam Seidel , Regional Account Manager, Infrastructure Solutions, ABM Industries 
    • Adam shared that many cities continue to find funding a challenge for implementing infrastructure, sustainability, and climate projects but offered a number of options for accessing funding: 
      • Guaranteed Program: uses estimated savings to pay back project costs over time. A performance contract with a company will guarantee those savings.
      • Bundling: combines guaranteed energy, operational, and capital savings that results in innovated funding, a comprehensive turnkey solution, and lower risk. 
      • Leveraged Federal Funds: uses federal funds to create savings. 
    • A whole facilities approach and funding analysis can develop projects that include: controls, water conservation, acceptance testing, guaranteed energy savings, electrical solutions, mechanical solutions, lighting solutions, mission critical solutions, battery technology, preventative & proactive maintenance, solar energy solutions, EV and fleet charging, and clinical engineering. 
    • A solution pathway includes: concept meeting, data & documents collection, analyze data & facilities, fiscal potential verification, procurement & selection, project development analysis, and solution implementation. 
  • Demystifying Federal Acronyms: New Federal Funding and Incentive Opportunities - Peter Lindstrom, CERTs Manager of Public Sector & Community Engagement
    • Peter provided an overview of federal funding opportunities related to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects: 
    • Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) - The second opportunity for this grant opened in January for $430 million. It is used to leverage larger amounts of funds for projects and programs that cut carbon emissions, improve energy efficiency, and reduce energy use at state, local, and tribal governments. 
      • Formula funds are given to local governments over 35,000 in population although they can decline the funds to receive a voucher for technical assistance or rebates instead. 
      • Federal EECBG competitive grants have limited availability BUT Minnesota will supply $1.3 million for non-formula fund-eligible governments. 
    • Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) - includes 135 expanded or new programs that will fund a range of projects related to energy, climate, and health care. 
      • Direct Pay - allows tax-exempt entities to take advantage of new tax incentives for solar, storage, geothermal, combined heat & power, and EVs as an alternative to 3rd party financing and Power Purchasing Agreements. 
      • 179D - expands an energy-efficiency tax deduction, giving tax-exempt organizations more negotiating power with those who build their facilities.
    • Peter shared his go-to resources for find more information on funding: 
  • Solar Installations in the City of Brooklyn Park - Dan Ruiz, Director of Operations & Maintenance, City of Brooklyn Park
    • Dan shared why sustainability is important to the City and that they have led the way by being the first in Minnesota with single sort recycling and to have a geothermal ice rink. 
    • In 2015, the city started installing solar. They used the Made in Minnesota solar grant (no longer available), to install rooftop and ground-mount panels using 3rd party investors receiving the 30% tax credit at their waste water treatment plant, public works, police station, and community activity center. In fact, this was the largest city installation in Minnesota at the time!). The project cost $3 million and generates 1.8 MW (enough to power 200 houses). The project has a projected savings of $5.7 million of 25 years. 
    • The City also purchases solar garden subscriptions which, together with the on-site solar, allow the City to use 100% sustainable energy for all city facilities. 
    • Dan also provided some lessons learned: Plan on many meetings. Know your roof condition and work it into the contract if an upgrade is needed. Nothing is free - plans take time and cost money. Staff time will be needed for weekly meetings, site supervision, coordination, power outages, and maintenance. Know where your utilities are located or they may cost you more to work around, move, or repair. Explore congressional spending, or earmarks, with US congress members which can fund public projects. 
  • Choose Your Own Adventure: Model Climate Project - ABM Industries
    • In this interactive exercise, participants role played a project that required financing in Anytown, Minnesota. 
    • Brad Gregory explained a few of the ways to pay for the projects, including: fund balance and cash reserves, Tax Exempt Municipal Lease options, general fund requests, energy/operational savings, capital budget, bond issuance/ refinancing/ debt wrap, existing revenue sources, separate millage/sinking fund, grants (ESSER, ARP, etc.) - or a combination of ANY and ALL of the above! 
  • Guide to Next Steps, Action, and Idea Generation 
    • Following the Adventure, we broke out into small groups to discuss our own communities, goals, and needs. 

View the workshop recording: 

View the slides and additional materials:  

Additional resources: 

Best Practice Actions related to this topic: 

GreenStep Cities & Tribal Nation BPAs: 
  • 1.3 Invest in larger energy efficiency projects through performance contracting or other funding or through smaller retro-commissioning/retrofit projects in city-owned/school buildings.

  • 1.5 Document that the new construction or major remodeling of a public building has met the SB 2030 energy standard or has met or qualified under a green building or energy framework.

  • 1.7 Install for one or more city-owned/school buildings one of the following efficiency measures: a. A ground-source, closed loop geothermal system. b. A district energy/microgrid system. c. A rainwater harvesting system for building water use.

  • 26.5 Install a public sector/municipally-owned renewable energy technology, such as solar electric (PV), wind, biomass, solar hot water/air, or micro-hydro.

  • 29.8 Improve local energy resilience by minimizing fuel poverty, installing distributed renewable energy systems, and developing microgrids that can improve energy system resiliency.

Gold Leaf climate actions: 
  • CM5 - Public sustainable buildings: Document that a public building has been newly constructed or undergone major remodeling and meets/qualifies under the SB 2030 energy standard or a green building or energy framework.

  • CM6 - Public energy efficiency projects: Invest in a new and significant energy efficiency project through performance contracting or other funding in city-owned/school buildings. 

  • CM12 - Community renewable energy projects: Newly install or support the installation for community-owned or public sector/municipally owned renewable energy technology—solar, wind, hydro, etc. 

  • CP2 - Community resilience hub: Create a plan for a new resilience hub that describes community services to be provided throughout the year, as well as specific services provided during disruption and into recovery after natural hazard events. 

  • CA3 - Back-up energy system: Newly install islanding capability and storage for a clean energy system in a publicly accessible building to provide back-up power that can sustain function during extreme weather events.

  • CA8 – Resilient public water systems: Newly implement a strategy to reduce climate change risk and increase resilience for city water or wastewater operations or a specific asset (such as a lift station, headwork, water intake/distribution/storage, booster stations/pump, treatment plant, etc.) 

Register for upcoming GreenStep Cities and Tribal Nations workshops here. You do not need to be a GreenStep community to attend.

 Visit the GreenStep Cities and Tribal Nations program website at

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