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How Green Retrofits Could Save the World

By Amy Westervelt

Sep 10, 2009

Meanwhile, in the residential market, which has languished without a financing model that provides enough incentives for homeowners to retrofit, home energy monitoring systems connected to the smart grid could provide the push needed. Some interesting financing models are also starting to emerge.

Bill Campbell, managing director of , says his firm is working on a business model that translates the ESCO idea into something that works for the residential market.

In essence, rather than selling homeowners energy services that they’ll be able to pay for over the long term with their energy savings, Equilibrium is developing a model whereby the energy services company bears all of the upfront cost and reaps all of the financial benefit—the homeowner’s utility bill stays the same, but they don’t bear any of the upfront cost of an energy efficient retrofit, a home improvement that could dramatically increase their property value.

Clean Energy District Financing is another approach that could help fund residential green retrofits. Pioneered by the City of Berkeley and now in place throughout California and Louisiana, Clean Energy District Financing allows a city to make proceeds from taxable revenue bonds available for home energy improvements and to retire the bonds over 20 years through a special tax levied on the properties whose owners who participate.

It’s a pretty good deal for every party involved. The 20-year term can make deeper investments feasible; the obligation is tied to the property, not to the owner; and property taxes, including the special assessment, are deductible for federal and state income tax purposes.

Green Retrofits = Energy Savings + Jobs

While it has taken longer for green retrofits to take off than green construction, momentum is building.

In addition to the incentives provided by eventual carbon regulation and the potential inherent in the smart grid, the federal stimulus package provided some $250 million to energy efficient retrofits via its .

In an effort to help spur the green retrofit market, the USGBC also re-launched its (LEED-EB) program in January 2008. It had more than 1,000 new registrants last year. To put that in perspective, over the lifetime of the LEED-EB program, from 2004 through the end of 2007, only about 500 projects sought certification for existing buildings.

It’s not quite a boom in green retrofitting, but it could be soon.

That would not only help cities achieve a real and meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions — buildings account for half the national energy demand and about 38 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — but it could also create new jobs for those in the building trades, as well as for metering and energy experts.

According to a by the The Schuster Group and Cascadia Capital, approximately 250 billion square feet of buildings in the United States need to be retrofitted with the latest green technologies, a task that could create between 200,000 and 400,000 jobs annually and inject an additional $200 billion annually into the U.S. economy.


See also:

LEED No Longer Stops at Construction: Version 3 Checks Up on Efficiency

Oh, Those Sexy Building Codes: More Effective Than 100 Nuclear Plants

Climate Legislation Could Be a Catalyst for Energy Efficiency


I agree with you Dan, i have already read this document and its truly depict the face of reality and what you have mentioned here is also worth while, all we need to focus on is maintaining the same pace reducing the emission by retrofitting existing vehicles.


These are a great way to get free retrofits. See my The ESCO Blog for more background.

The term "green" is on

The term "green" is on everyone's minds these days, whether it's getting more green as in making more money, or going green environmentally. The need for more green technology and practices is definitive, as the impact on our environment from our appetites for fossil fuel machinery and methods of generation electricity have taken a toll. An effort does have to be made to repair our planet, but many consider the loss of amenities to be too great to surmount. However, there are ways of getting by: solar water heating devices, electric high speed trains getting installed for public transport, and so forth. If you start going a little more green, it's like giving a cash advance to the Earth.

Local Governments Are the Key

Local governments play a key role in the quiet revolution of green retrofits. Couple things to add to what you've written: Revolving energy loan funds are an innovative mechanism for local governments to help homeowners and businesses pay for energy efficiency improvements or clean energy installations, and they're beginning to catch on.

Berkeley, CA, has definitely been a leader in local clean energy financing, and an inspiration to other local governments. However, there are a handful of other innovators, and this summer ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability USA held a popular webinar series on innovative energy financing programs that featured local government staff talking about how their programs worked, the challenges to implementation, and how their programs can be replicated. You can view the recorded versions of these webinars here:

The webinar series included these topics and local government innovators (all of which are ICLEI members):

--Babylon, NY's Long Island Green Homes initiative, which allows residents to finance energy-saving home improvements with a benefit assessment on their home.

--Cambridge, MA's Cambridge Energy Alliance

--Berkeley, CA's BerkeleyFIRST program

--Boulder County, CO's ClimateSmart Loan Program

--Setting Up a City-Scale Retrofit Program

--Sonoma County, CA's Energy Independence Program

Vehicles are already being retrofit

We are reducing vehicle emissions by retrofitting existing vehicles to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, an otherwise stock, seven-year old Honda Civic LX (non-hybrid) produces zero HCs and zero CO at 25mph. It's NOx is also extremely low.

You can see a California smog test report of the vehicle here:


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